Sometimes, amid the fake laughter and point-scoring insults that come from the Holyrood debating chamber, there are moments of real emotion.

There was one such moment last week when the family of Shaun Woodburn visited parliament to watch from the public gallery.

It was the same day that Shaun’s dad Kevin wrote his heart-breaking story in the Daily Record about the loss of his son, who was killed in ­Edinburgh just over a year ago.

I welcomed Kevin and Shaun’s grandparents Pat and Oliver to the parliament, and on their behalf I quizzed Justice Secretary Michael Matheson about the need for a more transparent justice system.

Mr Matheson responded sympathetically, and I hope the family left Holyrood that day knowing that their courage left a lasting impact on MSPs from all parties.

Shaun’s killer was sentenced to just four years after being found guilty of culpable homicide. The family believe the sentence should have been longer – of course they do.

But they also accept that that is why an independent judge determines these matters. Their campaign isn’t about changing judges’ decisions, it’s about understanding them.

What they want to know is why nobody will explain why the sentencing decision was made, what the process was, what was considered and what was not considered.

I raised this with Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, who drew my attention to the 2014 Victims and Witnesses Act, which gives victims the right to request the final decision of a court in a trial and any reasons for it. It’s a right that already exists in law.

That’s why I asked the Government what steps it will take to improve the transparency of court proceedings, and I’m pleased that Mr Matheson said in response: “It is important that we continue to listen to the experience of victims and their families and consider further improvements that can be made.”

Since last week, I have been inundated with correspondence from people across Scotland about this case.

There is a huge amount of support for the Woodburns and admiration for their bravery.

It is impossible to comprehend what they have been through, and I know thousands of Record readers will have been moved by Kevin’s article about how difficult it was to face the uncertainty of a second post-mortem of Shaun’s body.

He deserves to be listened to. It is vitally important to protect the rights of the accused, but I also welcome the recent decision to review the rules on post-mortem examinations to see what improvements can be made.

Politics, not just in Scotland but across the UK and the globe, too often has a bad name for itself.

The Punch and Judy shows in the debating chamber turn many people off, and it can appear – wrongly – that politicians are in it only for themselves.

Politics truly can be a force for good, and I will continue to support the Woodburns and their fight for transparency, so that no family has to suffer like they did ever again.

 

This article was first published on the 13th of February 2018 in the Daily Record newspaper.

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