Missing People missing from the Queen’s Speech

May 16, 2012 4:06 pm

Author:

Share this Article

One of the many surprises caused by its absence from the Queen’s Speech was any mention of the long-sought legislation on addressing the impact a missing loved one can have on families.  Every year around 216,000  people go missing and around 2,000 are still missing after a year; sadly some are never found.

Although families may come to the realisation, often after years of hoping, that their loved one is probably dead, without a body it is very difficult to register that person’s death and obtain a death certificate.  This can lead to years of delay in settling a person’s affairs such as dissolving marriages, dealing with mortgages, and administering estates.  In cases where missing people are found, the intervening period can have devastated their bank accounts, homes can have been repossessed, and bills paid for years for services they never used.

Charities such as Missing People have been working for some time to bring forward legislation and had been hopeful that this year’s Queen’s Speech would be the turning point. Their work has been supported by a June 2011 enquiry by the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children which recommend that the Ministry of Justice provides a framework for consultation.   The House of Commons Justice Select Committee then threw its weight behind the call in its report this February when they called on the Government to introduce a Presumption of Death Act modelled on the legislation in force in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  They even went further and proposed a system of guardianship orders that would allow a person’s property to be administered in their best interests if they have been missing for three months or more.  This is an excellent idea and could particularly help families where a loved one has goes missing but is found after a few months.

The legislation in Scotland has worked well and in the 34 years since it was enacted only one missing person is reported to have come forward, and of course that can’t be considered negative in any way.  If we compare the situation in Scotland or Northern Ireland to England and Wales, however, we soon see just how difficult it is for families whose loved one has gone missing.  Families can wait for seven years and then approach the courts, and I mean courts plural, because an order for one purpose does not cover all.  Oddly one court could rule on a presumption of death whereas another court on the same evidence could deny such an order.  All of this of course on top of the burden that the loss of a loved one brings with it.  Under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules a family could move slightly more swiftly but this is not a presumption of death, it only allows a family to administer the missing person’s affairs and the round of court applications is still needed to deal with marriages etc.

it is more than disappointing that the Ministry of Justice has not brought forward any proposed legislation in this area and it has fallen to Baroness Kramer to bring forward a private Bill in the House of Lords.  This is an unsatisfactory way for a government not exactly groaning under the weight of draft Bills to behave.   The Labour Party will continue to press the current government to resolve this issue at the earliest opportunity.

Rob Flello is a Shadow Justice Minister

  • treborc1

    The same problem you moan about the other lot not doing anything, but you have had thirteen years to sort it out, the question is why the heck did labour not do it when in power.

  • http://www.internationalrewardscentre.com/ Kevin

    internationalrewardscentre.com

    We totally agree with Treborci on this one. Trying to make political mileage from the issue of Missing Persons is one thing, walking the talk is another. The only thing Missing here is your ‘action’. 
    And why draw the Queen into this? Are you not man enough
    Could you please the public and categorically name those Labourite MPs who would support such a bill and give it the rubber stamp!

  • Bill Lockhart

    ” The Labour Party will continue to press the current government to resolve this issue at the earliest opportunity.”

    Except of course when the current government *is* the Labour Party, when it did sod all on the matter.

Latest

  • Featured Is the Labour Party campaigning hard enough for the European elections?

    Is the Labour Party campaigning hard enough for the European elections?

    In a week that supposedly signalled an end of the Cost of Living Crisis as wages begin to rise faster than inflation, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls will feel vindicated to learn that as far as LabourList readers are concerned, at least, it’s not over yet. An overwhelming 94% of those who responded to our survey this week believe the Cost of Living Crisis continues. That will certainly give new strategist David Axelrod something to work with, if activists are convinced […]

    Read more →
  • News Anyone for an Easter (Cl)Egg?

    Anyone for an Easter (Cl)Egg?

    The Mirror today have a story about a Labour attack on Nick Clegg – a chocolate “Easter Clegg”. It’s ‘completely hollow, melts under pressure and leaves bad taste in mouth”. The box also contains a “free mug”. Here’s a photo: Seemingly the Easter Clegg is “100% Authentically Conservative” and should be stored in David Cameron’s pocket. Meanwhile, both The Sun and The Telegraph claim this morning that Miliband would be happy to appoint Nick Clegg as Deputy PM in the event […]

    Read more →
  • News Ed Miliband’s Easter Message

    Ed Miliband’s Easter Message

    Here’s Ed Miliband’s Easter Message – touching on his recent trip to the Holy Land, and the work Christians do in their communities across Britain: “As Christians across Great Britain and the rest of the world gather to celebrate the most important event in the Christian faith, I would like to wish you all a happy Easter. “It was a privilege for me to visit the Holy Land in the lead up to Easter this year. I will be thinking […]

    Read more →
  • Comment UKIP’s attitude to accountability should worry us all

    UKIP’s attitude to accountability should worry us all

    UKIP’s reaction to the allegations over the use of the party’s EU funding has been telling. It tells us that they are not yet ready to take the step up from a being an assortment of oddballs and cranks to a serious political party. After The Times ran their front page on Tuesday, UKIP’s immediate reaction was to denounce the paper as a mouthpiece for the establishment, rather than bother to refute what they felt was incorrect about the article. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured In praise of Simon Danczuk

    In praise of Simon Danczuk

    Simon Danczuk has led the front pages this week with his explosive account of how an MP could hide a lifetime of abusing children. The Westminster reaction to his Cyril Smith allegations? Embarrassed coughs. Good on Simon for having the courage to speak his mind. Since his 2010 election, itself a feat of endurance, he’s demonstrated a forensic mind and a canny eye for a story. He represents a diminishing Westminster breed, a ‘character’ who speaks with an authentic voice […]

    Read more →