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

  • Comment We want to build relationships with Labour – but they need to take some bold steps

    We want to build relationships with Labour – but they need to take some bold steps

    First my credentials. I have supported Labour at every election since I was old enough to vote. I am a party member of some 30 years standing. Why then, as the General Secretary of the trade union for staff in further and higher education am I in such utter despair at the timidity of the policy offer made by Labour to the members I represent and their students? Let’s be clear, I believe the coalition’s policies have been a disaster […]

    Read more →
  • News I was “never ever complicit” in illegal rendition or torture, says Jack Straw

    I was “never ever complicit” in illegal rendition or torture, says Jack Straw

    Jack Straw has condemned the use of torture and denied being complicit in the torture of suspected terrorists, following the publication of a report in America concerning the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs). Straw was Labour’s Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006, during the foremost years of the “War on Terror” and the UK’s military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Questions have been raised concerning what members of the British government knew about the use of EITs, but […]

    Read more →
  • Comment How not to change the constitution

    How not to change the constitution

    In this Parliament AV was rejected, Lords reform stumbled and even the Tories attempt to ‘equalise’ constituencies fell. ‘The Implications of Devolution for England’ already looks unhealthily like these other failed constitutional reforms. Nonetheless, the issue holds real dangers for Labour. Hague’s partisan and divisive Commons statement showed the Tories’ more concerned to maximise difference than to bring people together for the good of England. Yet even this couldn’t disguise Conservative divisions. In three months his Cabinet Committee failed to […]

    Read more →
  • News “Our choice is the country’s choice” – Lisa Nandy’s LabourList Christmas Lecture

    “Our choice is the country’s choice” – Lisa Nandy’s LabourList Christmas Lecture

    On Monday evening Lisa Nandy MP gave the LabourList Christmas Lecture to launch her pamphlet “Our Labour Our Communities” – you can download the pamphlet here. Here’s the text of that lecture: We’ve got five months to go until the most important General Election in a generation. And over the last year, as I’ve spent time with Labour candidates meeting and listening to people in communities as diverse as Brighton, Norwich and Calder Valley it seems to me the overwhelming […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling New Ashcroft polls shows the point where the Labour gains stop coming

    New Ashcroft polls shows the point where the Labour gains stop coming

    The latest batch of marginals polling carried out by Lord Ashcroft has been published today, and it does not bring many glad tidings for Labour. The polling covers four Labour seats: Dudley North, Great Grimsby, Plymouth Moor View and Rother Valley; eight Conservative seats: Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Ealing Central & Acton, Elmet & Rothwell, Harrow East, Pendle, South Swindon, Stevenage, and Warwick & Leamington; and one Green Party seat: Brighton Pavilion. All of the Conservative held seats, bar Warwick & […]

    Read more →