Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Members of Parliament for South Shields has been working with one of her constituents, David Hines (Head of National Victims Association) to make amendments the Children & Social Work Bill.
Mr Hines is campaigning for a change in the law to restrict parental responsibility, in the particular circumstance of parent on parent murder which results in the unusual circumstance of the children being left without a carer.
In such circumstances, the person convicted of murder of the child's other parent still has powerful legal rights affecting the welfare of their children.
Mr Hines believes the justice system is failing victims and wishes to see a change in the law so that in future cases where homicide occurs in families, the needs of the victims (including the children) are prioritised regardless of the perpetrators' relation to the parties concerned.
If in some way you have ideas which can add strength to the debate in making amendments to the Children and Social work Bill please can you make contact with Emma Lewell-Bucks PA, Michelle Gribbon on [email protected]
A synopsis of some of the recommendations on which they are working, is given below. This is a very brief outline and they are aware there are a number of mitigating circumstances under each heading that will need to be ironed out.
Where a suspect is contesting the criminal case any applications in the family court (arising from the murderer's parental responsibility) should be suspended until the suspect is either acquitted or convicted. If the suspect is convicted any applications in their name should be set aside and not taken forward.
Full fostering allowance to family carers should be payable from the outset, without the need for a qualifying period when the child is taken into care for a short period of one day or more before the family takes up the responsibility for looking after the child.
It should be possible to receive adoption assistance from the Local Authority
Where the victim's family have to attend court hearings and adoption assessment hearings or other meetings they should have paid time off work.
Families who take over responsibility for the child of a victim should all receive non-means or merits-tested legal aid. (At present, the law provides for the perpetrator but not the victim)
The parent who committed murder should not have been able to claim legal aid for family proceedings applications in circumstances where they have been charged with murder (where there is no self-defence argument) within the family.
Specialist Support for families bereaved by homicide
A specialist support service should be set up to provide guidance to families bereaved by homicide. The service would signpost such families to appropriate services such as legal help (relevant court orders and the process for making them) and financial support.