Claudia father blasts Minister for law change plea snub

THE father of Claudia Lawrence has condemned the Government for failing to respond to a proposed overhaul of the law to help families resolve the legal affairs of missing relatives.

Peter Lawrence has been at the forefront of a campaign to introduce new legislation to aid families who are faced with dealing with the legal affairs of loved ones who have vanished.

Mr Lawrence had been given assurances by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly that a formal response would be given by the end of last month to recommendations drawn up by the Justice Select Committee.

However, he has yet to learn whether the recommendations will be adopted by the Government and claimed the delays were intensifying his ordeal since his daughter vanished more than three years ago.

Mr Lawrence, 65, a solicitor from York, said: “I am more than disappointed, it is disgraceful that the Minister has not replied.

“It is bad enough to find yourself in this position, but when the Minister has said he will reply in a certain timescale, you would hope he keeps his side of the bargain.

“I have heard nothing, and neither has anybody else. He has not come up with an excuse, and there is no excuse. There can only be one response, and that is to change the law.”

The select committee’s report was published in February and stated a single certificate declaring someone “presumed dead” should be brought in to help families resolve all the affairs of a missing person.

The committee claimed the current law is a “crazy paving” of different provisions which leaves families facing a “confusing, costly and emotionally-exhausting legal process”.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute in March to Mr Lawrence’s efforts to change the law. Mr Cameron acknowledged the difficulties faced by families whose loved ones had vanished when he was asked about the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Ministry of Justice maintained yesterday the Government “remains committed” to helping the families of missing people, and confirmed it will respond to the committee’s report shortly.

A spokeswoman said: “We recognise the emotional and practical difficulties faced by those whose loved ones are missing and thought to be dead, which is why we have been carefully considering the Justice Select Committee’s recommendations.”

Mr Lawrence was yesterday at the opening day of the Dante Festival at York Racecourse, which he used to attend every year with his daughter.

For the past two years, he has been given bets by the Blue Square betting company to place on races with the winnings being given to the Missing People charity.

A total of £500 was raised for the charity last year, and Mr Lawrence hopes to collect even more from yesterday’s races after being given seven £50 bets by the betting firm.

His daughter was 35 when she was last seen near her York home on March 18, 2009, and North Yorkshire Police detectives have failed to find any trace of her. The missing person inquiry was upgraded to a murder investigation the month after she vanished.