The Victims and Prisoners Bill will be amended so parents who kill a partner or ex-partner with whom they have children will automatically have their parental responsibility suspended upon sentencing.
The rule will apply to anyone convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they share parental responsibility and would then be reviewed swiftly by a judge to ensure it is in the best interests of the child. An automatic exemption would be put in place in cases where a domestic abuse victim kills their abuser.
It will better protect children by preventing killers from having any say over key elements of their life including whether they can access therapeutic support, go on holiday or change schools.
It will also mean the bereaved will no longer have to go through the current process of applying to restrict parental responsibility through the family court, reducing the burden on them at a challenging time.
The law will be named after Jade Ward, who was murdered by her former partner in 2021. Her family have campaigned tirelessly to change the law after her murderer was able to continue to take part in decisions relating to their four children inflicting further trauma on them and Jade’s parents.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, commented:
“We welcome today’s announcement that the government is committed to deliver Jade’s law, which will ensure that prisoners who murdered their partner will no longer have parental rights over their children. This is a victory for Jade’s family and friends, who’ve been campaigning tirelessly to end the control and fear that perpetrators continue to exert over children’s lives after carrying out such unthinkable acts of violence.
Perpetrators of domestic abuse assume power and control over women, and this doesn’t end when the relationship ends. In fact, many survivors report that the abuse can get worse once they’ve left the relationship – including when they are going through child contact proceedings. Despite this, a culture of ‘contact at all costs’ persist in family courts, forcing survivors into potentially dangerous contact with known perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Our 2016 Nineteen Child Homicides report found that over a 10-year period, 19 children in 12 families were killed by known perpetrators of domestic abuse in circumstances related to formal or informal child contact arrangements. Additionally, two other children were seriously physically harmed at the time of these homicides, and two women were killed.
While this is a vital first step forward, we continue to urge the government to go further and end avoidable child deaths due to unsafe contact with dangerous perpetrators, and to ensure that children are always put at the heart of contact decisions made by the family courts. We look forward to seeing this included in the Victims and Prisoners Bill, and hope to see other changes we’re calling for, to bring about tangible changes for victims within this legislation”.