Shaun Woodburn’s mother hopes government talks will help others

Shaun Woodburn and mum Denise Syme. Picture: contributed
Shaun Woodburn and mum Denise Syme. Picture: contributed
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THE mother of Shaun Woodburn has said she hopes meeting the First Minister will help show other people going through difficult circumstances that their concerns will be taken seriously.

Denise Syme said she wanted to make sure other victims’ families had a better experience of the Scottish justice system after passing through it herself following her son’s murder.

Her son, Shaun Woodburn, died last year in tragic circumstances after being set upon in the early hours of New Year’s Day. His 17-year-old killer was later handed a four-year sentence.

Earlier this week Denise, along with Shaun’s dad Kevin and grandad Oliver, had the chance to air their concerns in a three-hour meeting with 
Nicola Sturgeon, who was joined by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

Now as the new year gets under way, Denise has vowed to continue fighting on behalf of other families by speaking out on the failings in the system.

She said: “If we don’t tell people what we think the failings are it can’t get changed unless the public come out and say this doesn’t work for us.

“Nobody asked us afterwards apart from the First Minister. You just get left the minute the court gets finished. You can ask questions but it was more about Shaun’s case rather than the court procedure.

“That’s nine months of going through a system and nobody really asking how did it work for you. I think in this day and age we need to have the transparency to know it didn’t really work that well and it was awful and it could have been better.”

She said even seemingly small things had added to the trauma, for example members of Shaun’s family having to sit beside relatives of the accused at court, and the defence’s automatic right to a second autopsy.

Denise did not attend court herself as she could not face reliving the details of her son’s death. The group also discussed juvenile sentencing, with Denise saying the First Minister and Justice Secretary were receptive to their thoughts and sympathetic to their case.

She said: “I think she [Nicola Sturgeon] was really interested in what the downfalls were and what the good parts were because there will be other people going through this.

“We feel we were lucky because Shaun was a popular person and we have been able to voice our opinion. There will be people who haven’t been able to do that.”

As well as speaking to top government officials, Denise said she is also keen to work with Police Scotland on their ‘One Punch Two Lives’ campaign. “Even if you can stop one person, if one person can just think before they fight with somebody that would be great,” she said.

Also in attendance was Ben Macpherson, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, who helped facilitate the meeting. He said: “While neither the First Minister nor the Cabinet Secretary can change the 
outcome of Shaun Woodburn’s case, I will continue to correspond with both ministers to help Denise and Kevin to get the information they’re looking for and to explore how positive changes can be made.”