After the announcement of Jade's Law, two child victims of parental imprisonment are holding flags. One is blue with the words 'Every child matters'. The other is a red flag with the words 'It Wasn't Me'.

Jade’s law and the silent victims of the prison boom

‘Jade’s Law’ will be introduced in Parliament later this year, automatically suspending the parental rights of killer parents.

The measures, which will form part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, are named after Jade Ward who was stabbed and strangled by her partner, Russell Marsh, at their Flintshire home in 2021 while their four young children slept.

The decision to introduce Jade’s Law marks the end of a long campaign by the Ward family and Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside, Mark Tami.

Tami said: “At the heart of it, Jade’s Law is about removing the control from these people.

“It’s important we get the future right and that this law makes a real change to families and children and isn’t just a headline that happens to grab a bit of attention.”

UNITED: MP Mark Tami and Jade Ward’s family campaigning outside of the Houses of Parliament.

As the law stands, parental responsibility remains in place and family or guardians are required to seek the input of that parent in decisions including health, education and travel.

Tami said: “The thing that struck me most was even though [Marsh] is imprisoned, his involvement with his children still allows him to weaponise them.

“He didn’t want the grandparents to look after the children, he wanted the children to go into care.

“Jade’s Law will now put the requirement on perpetrators to demonstrate they are worthy of having a role in their child’s life.”

Three months ago, the Conservative government turned down an amendment to the bill, but they are now behind the measure.

In a speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester last week, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk outlined Jade’s law, stating: “I am clear that if a father murders the mother of his children, he should expect to lose his parental rights.

“That’s why today I can announce that we will legislate to suspend those rights from those who murder their partners, so, we will enact Jade’s Law.

“No family should have to go through this, and thanks to their efforts we will protect children and families by making their law a reality.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also welcomed the new rules, on the platform X.

Sarah Burrows is founder of Children and Heard and Seen (CHAS), a charity working to support children with parents in prison.

She said: “It’s a shame that we are now in 2023 and [Jade’s Law] is only just happening.

“Children’s worlds are thrown up enough in terms of losing two parents, one to custody and one to bereavement, and those thoughts and feelings are complex so for that parent to then control what they’re doing or not doing is utter madness.”

Burrows believes the amendment to the law is only a small part of a wider change.

An estimated 312,000 children each year are separated from a parent in prison in the UK, according to the National Information Centre on Children of Offenders.

Yet as it stands, this statistic remains uncertain.

Burrows said, “Currently there is no identification mechanism in place for children who are victims of parental imprisonment and it’s very much reliant on self-disclosure.

“Children need identifying but more importantly they need the right support.”

CHAS remain the only charity in the UK to offer specialist 1-1 support and since their establishment have helped around a thousand children.

Mary, the legal guardian of Sarah, whose father was found guilty of a sexual offence when she was three years old, said: “At the time it was just Daddy’s made the ‘thumbs down’ bad choice because that’s the phrase they were using at nursery.

“But as she’s got older she has started to ask more questions.

“We contacted CHAS and they give us some amazing crib sheets, which was all age-appropriate and something that she’d understand.

“The charity also gave us some online therapy for Sarah, this gives her a safe space should she feel she wants to talk about where her Dad is.”

Whilst Jade’s Law is welcomed by CHAS, Mary emphasises the importance of considering the long-term implications on children: “I think kids sometimes know more than what we think they do.

“If we keep them informed obviously in an age-appropriate way as to where we are then this decision regarding their parents might not be such a traumatic decision later on down the line.”

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Featured image credit: @childrenhands (Instagram)

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