Killer parents to have parental rights taken away, Justice Secretary to announce

A parent who has been found guilty of murdering the other parent will have their parental rights taken away, the Justice Secretary will announce.

In his main speech at the Tory party conference, Alex Chalk will outline plans to introduce “Jade’s Law” before Parliament by the end of the year.

The measures are named after Jade Ward, who was stabbed and strangled by her partner Russell Marsh.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, in central London, ahead of his swearing in ceremony as Lord Chancellor (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk will address the Conservative conference (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Despite currently serving at least 25 years in prison for her murder, Marsh still retains parental rights and Jade’s parents have been campaigning for that to change.

Mr Chalk is also expected to announce the legal expectation placed on judges to hand down whole-life orders will apply retrospectively to those who have already committed the crime but are yet to be sentenced.

Mr Chalk said about Jade’s Law: “Jade Ward’s case and the moving campaign of her family has exposed an injustice in our family justice system, one that we are committed to fixing.

“Murderers who kill their partners should not be able to manipulate and control their children from behind bars, which is why we are fixing the law to protect families from this appalling behaviour.”

The new rules, set to be introduced as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, will create an automatic suspension of parental responsibility from a person who is convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they share parental responsibility.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says this will ensure that children are protected from their remaining parent having any say in their life, from going on holiday abroad to which school they will attend.

The court, the MoJ added, would still consider the best interests of the child through a review stage and a right to apply to have the suspension lifted.

Meanwhile, on whole-life orders applying to those who have already been caught, Mr Chalk said: “We are clear that for the most dangerous and depraved killers, life should mean life in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

“Our measures to increase the use of whole life orders, expand to single murders with sexual or sadistic conduct, and enable judges to hand them down in cases already going through the courts will mean that society is better protected.”

The move follows the Prime Minister’s announcement the Government aims to change the law so that judges are required to impose whole-life orders on the most depraved killers, except in extremely limited circumstances.

Whole-life orders are the most severe penalty available in the country’s criminal justice system.

Rishi Sunak said: “The public rightly believe that the most despicable killers should face life behind bars. That’s why we are ensuring life means life for the most serious cases without the chance of parole.

“Today, we are announcing that we will extend whole-life orders to those who have committed the crime but have not yet been sentenced so that more of the most vicious criminals face the punishment they deserve with no hope of ever walking free.”