Molly Russell’s father says parents should be allowed to view children’s phones after death

Eleanor Busby

A father of a teenager who took her own life after viewing self-harm and suicide material on social media has called for a law change to allow parents to view their children’s phones after death.

Ian Russell has called on the government to give grieving parents clear legal rights to their children’s devices and online accounts to help provide them with more answers.

Molly Russell died in 2017, at the age of 14. Her family, from north London, found material relating to depression and suicide when they looked at her Instagram account after her death.

Her father believes she may have had access to even darker material that they have not yet seen – but they are unable to find out as they are still locked out of her iPhone and iPod Touch.

“There may be stuff on those electronic devices that may throw a completely new light on all of this,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

Earlier this year, the police said they would try to retrieve digital data on Molly’s devices, an action usually reserved for criminal investigations.

Now Mr Russell is calling on the next government to give parents rights to their children’s accounts and devices when they die, as clips, photos and messages could bring comfort to families.

He added: “It is absolutely essential that these things are looked at for young people in these circumstances.

“I think as a family we have had to find ways to move on and get closure and it has probably delayed that. It hasn’t helped, and I don’t think any family should have to go through that.”

In January, Mr Russell accused Instagram of “helping to kill” his daughter with the material on its site.

Just weeks later, the social media giant said it would ban graphic images of self-harm from its platform.

Now Mr Russell wants the next prime minister to mount a “national response” to the crisis of self-harm and youth suicide – similar to the efforts to end knife crime.

He said: “I think a national response is needed. If you think about the very understandable outcry there is to knife crime among young people, as far as I can see, the tragedies resulting from knife crime in terms of numbers are comparable to those resulting from suicide for young people.”

You can contact the Samaritans by calling them free from any phone on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.