What is Jade’s Law? Bill to protect children from killer parents

 (PA)
(PA)

A parent who has been found guilty of murdering the other parent will have their 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.

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.

Here is everything we know.

Who was Jade Ward?

Jade Ward, 27, was stabbed and strangled in her home in Shotton, Flintshire, by her estranged husband and father to her children Russell Marsh in 2021.

Marsh killed the mum-of-four in a brutal attack just yards away from their sleeping children. Jade’s body was found under a pile of clothes in a room sealed shut with a dressing-gown cord at her mum Karen Robinson’s home in Shotton on August 26, 2021.

Marsh was sentenced to life in prison in April and was ordered to serve at least 25 years behind bars. But, despite being locked up for killing their mum, Marsh has still held parental responsibility for the four children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, something Jade’s family have campaigned against.

Russell Marsh was jailed for a minimum of 25 years (North Wales Police / PA)
Russell Marsh was jailed for a minimum of 25 years (North Wales Police / PA)

What is Jade’s Law?

The family has campaigned to remove parental responsibility from the parent who killed the other automatically. Under current laws, this has to be applied for and enacted through court.

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 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.”

The family who campaigned for the change said Marsh was still trying to exert control over them and the children after he was found guilty of their mother’s murder, requesting school reports and trying to make orders about their care.

Under the new law, it is said there will be an exemption for parents who are victims of domestic abuse.

How many signatures did the Jade’s Law petition receive?

An online petition received more than 130,000 signatures and triggered a parliamentary debate. In July, an amendment to a bill to suspend the rights of killer parents in jail was turned down by MPs, but now it is set to be announced by the Conservatives imminently.

What is a whole-life order?

The term means exactly that. A ‘whole life order’ means that the offender must spend the rest of their life in prison.

It is the single most severe punishment in English criminal law and means that the offender will spend the rest of their life in prison, with no minimum term and no chance of early release.

It is different from a life sentence which, although it lasts for life, does not confine someone to prison. The convicted person will serve a term in prison, then they may be released on licence for good behaviour, which means they are subject to certain conditions for the rest of their life. If they break the terms of this licence, they will end up back in prison.