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Jade's Law

Debated in parliament and the Government did not support a change to the law

Divorce, living together and family issues

decorative image for guidance blogJade ward was killed by her estranged partner James Marsh, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for his crime.

They had four children and Jade’s family were shocked to find that Marsh retains Parental responsibility, which means that he still has some legal say in the children’s lives, from prison.

Parental responsibility is a legal concept introduced by the Children Act 1989 and bestows on all mothers and most fathers the responsibility for many aspects of their children’s lives. This can carry with it the right to be consulted about decisions concerning matters such as which school a child should go to or healthcare and medical treatment. Most parents make these decisions jointly and the courts only become involved when there are disputes between parents.

Jade Wards family assumed that because Marsh had killed their daughter, he would automatically lose parental responsibility and no longer have the rights in respect of the children’s lives. However, parental responsibility is not automatically lost, no matter how serious a parent’s crime against the other may be. So, Jade’s family launched a campaign for Jade’s Law. If passed Jade’s law would make the loss of parental responsibility automatic in these circumstances.

Recently Jade’s Law was debated in parliament and the Government, while expressing sympathy to Jade’s family and others in their position, did not support a change to the law.

They pointed out that under the law as it now stands, the Courts can restrict a parent’s parental responsibility. They can also stop a parent from making repeated applications on decisions concerning the children if they think that those applications are harmful to the children. The Governments view was that this is enough to assist families like Jade’s.

They noted that the principle of the Children Act is to put the best interests of the child first and felt that the right place for that to be determined was the family courts. They believe that the courts should have the discretion to decide whether parental responsibility should be restricted rather than it being automatically removed, as every family’s case will be different, and the courts should decide on the facts of each case.

Jade’s family believe that it is not right that they, and others like them, should have to face the cost and stress of an application to the court to restrict parental responsibility and it should automatically be removed in cases of murder. They secured over 130,000 signatures on a petition to get the matter debated in Parliament.

Although they did not get change in the law that they were looking for in that debate the Government did promise to look at ways of speeding up applications in court to deal with these sorts of cases and to extend Legal Aid for Special Guardianship, which is a type of order that gives other family members responsibility and rights in these sorts of circumstances.

Disputes over parental responsibility decisions are fairly common, although thankfully, not often involving matters as extreme as murder. More usually they occur when couples separate and cannot agree about aspects of their children’s lives.

If you want legal advice on parental responsibility, you can find a solicitor specialising in Family law at Alternatively, you may want to read some of our other employment guidance blogs, such as "Can a child be a party to the proceedings during a dispute?"  or "Can I take my child on holiday abroad if my ex doesn’t agree?"