Jade’s Law: parents who kill their partner or ex will automatically lose rights over children, government says

The new law, announced by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, will be named after Jade Ward, who was murdered by her former partner in 2021.
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Parents who kill their partners or ex-partners will have any rights over their children automatically suspended while they serve time in prison, the government has announced.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk unveiled ‘Jade’s Law’ on Tuesday (3 October) - named after Jade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled by her estranged partner Russell Marsh in August 2021, while their four sons lay asleep in their home in Shotton, Flintshire.

Despite being sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison, Marsh currently still retains rights to request school reports and medical details of his children, and he could even stop them from seeking therapy, travelling abroad, or obtaining passports.

Slamming this as an “injustice in our family justice system”, Chalk announced that under the new measures, which will see the Victims and Prisoners Bill amended, “anyone convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they share parental responsibility... will automatically have parental responsibility suspended upon sentencing.”

This decision will be swiftly reviewed by a judge to ensure it is in the best interests of the child or children involved, and exemptions would apply in cases where a domestic abuse victim kills their abuser.

Jade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled by her estranged partner Russell Marsh in 2021. Credit: PAJade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled by her estranged partner Russell Marsh in 2021. Credit: PA
Jade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled by her estranged partner Russell Marsh in 2021. Credit: PA

Since Jade’s tragic death, her family have cared for her children and “tirelessly” campaigned to change the law so that her murderer Marsh no longer has parental rights.

Her father, Paul Ward, previously spoke to the BBC about the harm Marsh’s attempts to exercise control over his sons was having. He told the broadcaster in July: “It’s absolutely shocking. It’s him behind prison cells dragging things up, it’s just very hard. The boys don’t want contact with him. They don’t want contact with him at all.”

Meanwhile, following the confirmation of the legislatory change, Jade’s mother Karen Robinson said: “I’m just so proud of everybody who’s been a part of Jade’s Law campaign - the people who signed the petition, people who sent supportive message, people who stopped us in the street.

“We were going through such trauma, but I couldn’t leave Jade’s death in vain. Jade was such a beautiful soul... who has left such a legacy for other families.

“We are hoping that once it’s all up and running, a spouse considering murdering the other parent - if they know they’ll lose rights - if that stops them, that’s a family saved.”

Commenting on the news, Mr Chalk said the change will “better protect children by preventing killers from having any say over key elements of their life”.

Addressing the trauma faced by the family of Jade, the Tory MP added that the amended legislation will also ensure bereaved loved ones “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.”

Farah Nazeer, chief executive of domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, said in a statement: “We welcome today’s announcement that the government is committed to deliver Jade’s Law. This is a victory for Jade’s family and friends, who have 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.”

However, she also urged 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.”

The new powers are expected to be brought before Parliament by the end of the year.

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