How Jades Law Enhances Support Systems for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

How Jades Law Enhances Support Systems for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

In autumn of 2023, the Ministry of Justice announced that the Victims and Prisoners Bill would be amended. Legislation is often subject to revision, so this wasn’t unusual in itself. What’s particularly notable about the announcement was the official government briefing. It stated, “Jade’s Law to be introduced to better protect children”.  Jade Ward was a mum of four who was murdered by her former partner in 2021.

What is Jades law and when was it passed?

Jade Law was a young mum who was stabbed and then strangled by her former partner, Russell Marsh in the family home in Flintshire while her children slept. Following Jade’s murder, Marsh was sentenced to a prison term of at least 25 years.

Despite his incarceration, Marsh was able to retain parental rights to the four children he shared with Jade. This allows him to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare. Examples of those decisions include being able to request school reports, deny permission for medical treatment and to have a say in whether the children should be permitted to leave the UK and travel abroad.

Jade’s parents, who have assumed guardianship for the children, have campaigned to change the law since her death. Jade’s Law will remove the parental rights of a parent found to have murdered, or to have committed the voluntary manslaughter, of their children’s other parent.

The measures will be introduced as an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. It was confirmed by Alex Clark, KC, the Justice Secretary on 03 October 2023.

At the time of writing, the amends are making their way through parliament. The Bill has moved through the House of Commons and is now making its way through the House of Lords. It is currently at the Report stage, with three further sittings scheduled to take place throughout April 2024. There will then be a third reading in the House of Lords before the Bill passes to the final stage for a consideration of the amendments and Royal Ascent.

How does Jade’s Law enhance support systems for survivors of domestic abuse?

Jade’s parents, who launched the Jade’s Law campaign, say that removing the parental rights of someone found to have murdered the other parent may give violent partners pause for thought. They hope that knowing they will lose their rights to their children may deter that person from killing.

For the victims of domestic abuse left behind, Jade’s Law will also ensure that care givers aren’t manipulated or forced to live in fear that the children may be removed from their guardians.

Jade’s family say that Russel Marsh has continued to express his desire that the children be removed from their care, causing great stress and anxiety; something they want to prevent from happening to other families.

Because the suspension of parental rights will happen swiftly under the new measures, grieving families will also be spared the ordeal of going to court to request the removal of parental responsibility from the guilty party.

What specific provisions or measures does Jade’s Law introduce or improve?

At present, it’s possible for families of victims to request that a prisoner charged with a crime have their parental rights removed, however this is not done automatically in the event of a murder or manslaughter conviction.

This means that under the current Victims and Prisoners Bill, a parent convicted of murdering the other parent can remain an active decision maker in key areas such as health, travel, and the education of their children. This means they can continue to make contact and exert influence over those children, even after they’re found guilty of murder.

The Justice Secretary has stated that Jade’s Law will improve the current legislation by protecting the families and children involved from manipulation and control by the convicted parent.  He explains, “Jade Ward’s case and the moving campaign of her family has exposed an injustice in our family justice system, one that we are committed to fixing.

“Murderers who kill their partners should not be able to manipulate and control their children from behind bars, which is why we are fixing the law to protect families from this appalling behaviour.”

What impact has Jade’s Law had on the broader conversation and approach to addressing domestic abuse?

Jade’s Law is an important step forward for victim protection and safeguarding. It has ignited a wider conversation and awareness about the law in its present form, and stimulated a wider consideration of how victims can be given more compassionate protection in the face of domestic abuse.

It’s also succeeded in highlighting the vulnerabilities of children in situations of domestic abuse under the current Bill and spotlighted the need to protect them from violent parents.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse or domestic violence, we can help. Please get in touch to discuss your situation in confidence.

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Shaoli has been a solicitor at NLS for over two years, transitioning from a background in criminal law to full-time family law. Her experience as a Criminal Duty Solicitor has equipped her with unique skills that are invaluable in her current role.
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