Justice Secretary Alex Chalk KC recently proposed plans to revise the Victims and Prisoners Bill, following the murder of Jade Ward by her former partner in 2021. Her family’s campaign to prevent killers from continuing their abuse, by partaking in decisions related to their children from that relationship, have been recognised by the Ministry of Justice.
The amendments are indicated to be as follows:
- A parent who kills a partner or former partner with whom they have children will automatically have their Parental Responsibility suspended upon sentencing.
- This rule will apply to those convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter.
- A Judge will review the suspension to assess whether it is in the best interests of the child.
- An automatic exemption will apply to cases where a domestic abuse victim kills their abuser.
The Ministry of Justice have stated that the amendments will limit a killer’s ability to retain control over central elements of the affected child’s life, such as whether they can access therapeutic support or change schools; those taking over the care of affected children, such as other family members, would no longer be forced to issue court proceedings in order to restrict the convicted killer’s Parental Responsibility.
Although, the practical impact of the proposed changes is yet to be assessed; further detail is required in regard to time scales for suspensions of parental responsibility, whether the reviewing process will take place in the Family Court or the Criminal Court, and the operation of the domestic abuse exemption in cases where incidents of abuse are less clearly determined.