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What Can I do to Protect Myself and My Children from Harm?

20/06/2024

In this blog, our specialist children law solicitors round up some of the key policies that have been introduced to protect children and victims of domestic violence. 

Over recent years, a number of measures have been introduced allowing you to be proactive in seeking information about a partner, or someone who spends time with your children, who may pose a risk of harm.  

Most recently, the Victims and Prisoners Bill received royal assent at the end of May 2024, one of the final pieces of legislation to be passed before the current parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election on 4 July. 

The new Act aims to improve the support and guidance offered to victims of crime and major incidents and includes plans to introduce a series of reforms to the parole system. 

Following a lengthy campaign from the family of Jade Ward, who was murdered by her former partner in 2021, the Bill also includes a rule that parents who kill a partner or ex-partner with whom they have children will automatically have their parental responsibility suspended upon sentencing. 

The inclusion of ‘Jade’s Law’ in the Bill is the latest in a series of changes to safeguarding rules in England and Wales that have been prompted by victims’ families.  

Jade’s Law 

What is Jade’s Law? 

Jade's Law is the name given to a new set of laws being introduced under the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which was granted royal assent on 24 May 2024.  

It is named after Jade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled to death aged 27 by her estranged partner Russell Ward at her home in north Wales in 2021.  

Although her ex-partner was sentenced to a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years for her murder, he retained parental responsibility over their four children.  

After Jade’s death, Jade’s children were taken in and cared for by her parents. However, as Russell had parental responsibility for the children, Jade’s parents had to consult their daughter’s killer about decisions relating to their grandchildren’s education, health and welfare.  

They also discovered that if they wanted to take the children abroad on a holiday, they would require Russell’s permission. 

Russell also made repeated requests from prison for school reports, photographs and medical information, inflicting further trauma on the family. 

What will change under Jade’s Law? 

Under the new law, a person convicted of the murder or manslaughter of their co-parent will automatically have their parental responsibility suspended and a judge will then decide whether it is in the best interests of the child for the removal to happen permanently.   

Removing parental responsibility means the parent no longer has the right to be involved in any decisions regarding their children. 

Clare’s Law 

What is Clare’s Law? 

Also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, Clare’s Law is a police policy that gives individuals the right to know if a partner has an abusive past.  

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her abusive ex-partner in 2009. Clare had met and started a six-month relationship with George Appleton after meeting him on Facebook, not knowing that he had a criminal past.  

After Appleton’s behaviour became coercive, Clare ended things and got a restraining order. However, Appleton continued to subject her to harassment, damage to property, threats of violence and attempted assault, with the abuse ending in Clare’s murder. 

Clare’s Law was implemented across all police forces in England and Wales in March 2014 following a campaign by Clare’s father Michael to create a police disclosure scheme that would allow everyone the right to know of a partner’s history of violence. 

Can I find out if my partner has a criminal record? 

Clare’s Law gives you the right to information about your partner/ex-partner’s abusive or violent offending. 

Specifically, Clare’s Law gives you the following rights: 

  • Right to ask. You can make an application to the police requesting information about your current or ex-partner, or that of a relative or close friend, if you are worried they may have been abusive in the past and believe they may pose a risk in the future. 
  • Right to know. If police checks show that your current or ex-partner has a record of violent or abusive behaviour, and they believe you may be at risk, they may decide to proactively share that information with you. 

Sarah’s Law 

What is Sarah’s Law? 

Sarah's Law is officially known as the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme and was introduced in England and Wales in April 2011. 

It allows parents, carers or guardians to ask the police to reveal whether someone who has contact with their child has been convicted of child abuse or is likely to pose a risk. 

It is named after Sarah Payne, who was murdered aged eight in 2000 by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting. 

Under Sarah’s Law, if you’re worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child, you can find out if that person is a risk. You must apply for information about a specific person and a specific child or children they spend time with rather than general information about child sex offenders. 

Anyone with concerns about a child can apply, although any disclosure made by the police is confidential and made only to the parent or carer of the relevant child. 

Several enhancements were made to Sarah’s Law in 2023, including the introduction of an online application system, and a reduction in the time for processing applications to 28 days. 

Family Lawyer Near Me 

At Russell & Russell, we understand that the safety of you and your children is your paramount concern.  

If you are worried about any individual your child has contact with and want to know where you stand legally, speak to one of our experienced solicitors.  

Our compassionate team of family law specialists will listen carefully to fully understand your situation before advising on the best way to proceed. 

We will ensure you are safe, and your children are protected. 

For legal advice about safeguarding yourself or your children, our solicitors are here to help. To speak to one of our team, please call 0800 103 2600 or request a call back

In an emergency, call the police on 999. 

Please note that this article is meant as general guidance and not intended as legal or professional advice. Updates to the law may have changed since this article was published. 



 


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