MP says Claudia case shows how law creates anguish

Claudia Lawrence
Claudia Lawrence
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THE ANGUISH of bereaved families is being accentuated by delays to laws linked to missing people who are presumed dead, one of Yorkshire’s MPs has warned.

The Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, insisted the Presumption of Death Act was of the “utmost importance” to families whose loved ones have disappeared. He called for more information about the legislation, which aims to allow relatives to deal with the affairs of someone who is missing and presumed dead. Mr Sturdy cited the case of missing chef Claudia Lawrence, who was last seen on March 19, 2009, walking near her home in York. The missing person inquiry was upgraded to a murder investigation the following month.

The Act was granted Royal assent in March last year to allow relatives to apply for a single certificate declaring someone presumed dead, helping to resolve that person’s affairs. Miss Lawrence’s father, Peter, a solicitor from York, has been at the forefront of the campaign to instigate the new law.

Mr Sturdy told Commons Leader Andrew Lansley: “Can we have a statement on the delayed Presumption of Death Act? This month marks the fifth anniversary of Claudia Lawrence’s disappearance and it is encouraging following the Crimewatch appeal last week that further information has come forward. But the legislation is of the utmost important to the families of those whose loved ones have gone missing and the delay only serves to compound the anguish by those loved ones.”

Mr Lansley replied: “Yes, I’m sure members across the House will be aware of some of the cases that have given considerable distress and which gave rise rightly to the House’s approval for the Presumption of Death Act. I will, if I may, talk to the... Ministry of Justice and see what steps are being taken to bring that Act into force.”

The new law will mean families are able to deal with issues such as suspending direct debits for mobile phone and utility bills under a so-called power of guardianship.