March 2024

New Data Bill changes mean families can get more answers at an inquest

Coroners will now be able to demand data from firms when holding an inquest into the circumstances of a child’s death.

The new power was originally agreed during the passage of the Online Safety Act but a subsequent measure inserted into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill saw the government narrow it so it could only be used where a coroner “suspects that the child may have taken their own life.” This would have watered-down data access rights for coroners as it would not include cases where for example, a child has been murdered.

The change was opposed by the Bereaved Families for Online Safety campaign group, of which the Molly Rose Foundation (MRF) is a member, and after a series of meetings with the campaigners, the government has changed course.

In a statement last month, the group said: ““As a group of families with our own individual stories, we are reassured that future bereaved families will not have to share in our agonising experience of being stonewalled by tech companies.

“We thank the Secretary of State for continuing to engage with our concerns as we look to work together to make the online world a safer place for all children.”

Writing to the group this week, Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan said: “By introducing this amendment, we are ensuring coroners can trigger the data preservation process when they decide it is necessary to support their investigations into the death of a child, irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the death.”

She added: “I sincerely hope this provides some reassurance that coroners will be able to fully access the online data they need for their investigations in order to provide answers for grieving families, and that we will close any potential loopholes that could impede coronial investigations.”

If you’re struggling just text MRF to 85258 so you can speak to a trained volunteer from Shout, the UK’s Crisis Text Line service

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