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Jade's Law Being Taken Forward by Conservative Government

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

17th November 2023

Announced at the Conservative Party Conference by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk the Victims and Prisoners Bill will be amended to remove parental rights from those convicted of killing the mother or father of their children.

Known as Jade’s Law, to honour victim Jade Ward, also known as Jade Marsh, who lost her life at the hands of her estranged husband. Russell Marsh, murdered Jade in 2021 when their four children were asleep, after she informed him of her intention to leave him. Initially he claimed the death was accidental and admitted manslaughter but was convicted of murder by a jury.

He has since retained parental rights to their children, but Jade’s family has campaigned against this, to stop his controlling behaviour. For the current position is that prisoners convicted of killing the parent of their children still retain the right to be consulted on decisions in relation to them, on matters such as their health and education. This is due to them having parental responsibility for their children and for which an application has to be sought to remove this. This proposed change in the law will automatically suspend any such rights when someone is convicted of killing their partner with whom they have children, without the need for family relatives to have to go through the added trauma of making applications for this with the Family Courts.

Under the new laws the courts will look at the best interests of the child and there would be a right to have the suspension lifted. Exemptions would apply for those convicted of diminished responsibility following a history of domestic abuse.

A campaign group, including Jade’s parents, Karen Robinson and Paul Ward, with the support of their local MP Mark Tami, amongst others, campaigned for this change in the law and a petition gained over 130,000 signatures. Initially their ideas were rejected by the government who saw that an application to remove parental responsibility could be made by any interested party anyhow. However after lobbying other MPs this has now been taken forward in Jade’s name to honour her memory.

Suggested Activities

  • Outline how a law is passed through Parliament - this could be shown through diagram representing each stage
  • Research the campaign for Jade’s Law. What changes will this new proposed law bring about?
  • Research the current passage of the Victims and Prisoners Bill through Parliament. What is its current stage? How many stages are left in order for this Bill to become law?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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