Restrictions on Children's Names?

Richard Jackson made this Freedom of Information request to Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland)

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Richard Jackson

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am trying to find information on what restrictions exist in relation to names that may be given to child - whether certain names are not allowed, whether there is any restriction on length or characters, or any other restructions or rules that may exist.

I have, for example, found a recent news article from New Zealand that states that names there cannot be longer than 100 characters or cause offence to a reasonable person, but I am having difficulty if any such rules exist in Scotland.

I am assuming that if such rules exist there would be, as well as any direct legislation on the matter (to which I would appreciate you directing me), leaflet, booklets or other information for parents explaining this, as well as policy guides and training materials for Registrars.

I would ask that you provide copies of any such materials, in electronic form whre possible, or, where any of these are already publicly available, details of how I may access them.

Thank you,

Richard

Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland)

Dear Mr Jackson

Thank you for your e-mail of 25 July seeking information on what
restrictions there are in relation to children's names in Scotland.

There is no legislation or leaflets governing the names that can be
given to children. Parents in Scotland have the freedom to name their
children as they wish, provided it is not objectionable. However, if a
registrar felt a name was potentially offensive or unusual they would
speak to the parents, to ensure they understood the implications of
choosing such a name. If a registrar still had doubts about a name
being proposed by parents they would consult this office.

I hope you find this helpful.

John

John McCafferty
Head of Registration Process Branch
General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Tel: 0131 314 4456

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Richard Jackson

Dear Mr McAfferty,

Thank you for your speedy reply.

Can I ask that you clarify the issue of an name being objectionable: what standard is used here? Are there any procedures in place for deciding this, or is it purely a judgement call on behalf of the registrar and then your office? What if the name were in, say, Chinese, and might be objectionable to anyone who understood it, even though the majority of people would not?

What happens if a parent wishes to use the name anyway? Do they need to formally challenge your decision (and if so is there an explicit process for that?), or is your role here purely to try to persuade the parent, but in the end, if they are adamant, any name will be accepted? If the refusal is binding, are records kept on that? Do you know, for example, how many times this has happened over the past 3 years?

Yours sincerely,

Richard

Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland)

Dear Mr Jackson

Thank you for your further e-mail of 25 July about the above.

It would be for the registrar, and if necessary this office, to consider
if a name being proposed were objectionable, and to advise the parents
accordingly. If a birth were registered using a non-English name that
happened to be considered objectionable in another country (because it
was an objectionable term in that particular country), the registrar,
and we, are unlikely to be aware of that, and we would be unable to
alert the parents.

In the 12 years that I have worked here, we haven't yet had occasion to
refuse to register a name. If, at some future date, we did, it would be
open to the parents to seek a judicial review of that decision.

I hope you find this helpful.

Yours sincerely

John

John McCafferty
Head of Registration Process Branch
General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Tel: 0131 314 4456

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