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Article England and Wales: Proposed Law Would Suspend Parental Rights of Convicted Killers

On October 3, 2023, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice announced that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk would be introducing an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The amendment would automatically suspend the parental responsibility of an individual convicted of killing their partner or ex-partner with whom they share a child. The proposed amendment, known as Jade’s Law after Jade Ward, who was murdered by her former partner who then continued to take part in decisions involving their shared children, would apply to any person convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they had a child and share parental responsibility with. The suspension would be quickly reviewed by a judge to ensure that it is in the best interests of the child to suspend the individual’s parental responsibility. A right to appeal the suspension would be put in place. The only exemption to this automatic suspension would apply to cases where a victim of domestic abuse kills their abuser.

The aim of the amendment is to prevent those convicted of murdering a child’s parent from continuing to have input into the child’s life, such as in areas of education, health, and travel. This means the convicted individual would no longer have a role in deciding which school their child should attend, whether they can access therapeutic support, and whether they can go on vacation overseas. The amendment would help to protect families impacted by the killings and also provide that those impacted would no longer have to apply to the family court to restrict parental responsibility.

The proposal was initially debated before Parliament following an online petition that garnered over 130,000 signatures, which triggered a parliamentary debate. The Ministry of Justice initially rejected the proposal in June 2023, stating that the existing powers for parental rights to be removed under the Children Act 1989 were sufficient. The Ministry of Justice later determined the proposals would be beneficial and announced that it would introduce an amendment to the bill by the end of 2023.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill also brings forward a number of provisions aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system. The bill would:

  • Improve support for victims of crime.
  • Establish an Independent Public Advocate to support victims of crime.
  • Strengthen the parole system by creating a cohort of offenders considered to be the most dangerous. These would be subject to ministerial oversight so that their release could be refused if protecting the public required it.
  • Prohibit those imprisoned under whole life orders from marrying or forming a civil partnership while in prison.

Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
October 23, 2023

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Chicago citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, Clare. England and Wales: Proposed Law Would Suspend Parental Rights of Convicted Killers. 2023. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-10-22/england-and-wales-proposed-law-would-suspend-parental-rights-of-convicted-killers/.

APA citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, C. (2023) England and Wales: Proposed Law Would Suspend Parental Rights of Convicted Killers. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-10-22/england-and-wales-proposed-law-would-suspend-parental-rights-of-convicted-killers/.

MLA citation style:

Feikert-Ahalt, Clare. England and Wales: Proposed Law Would Suspend Parental Rights of Convicted Killers. 2023. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-10-22/england-and-wales-proposed-law-would-suspend-parental-rights-of-convicted-killers/>.