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Legislation allowing families legal guardianship of a missing person’s affairs passes 

Missing People has welcomed the success of today’s Third Reading of a Ten Minute Rule Bill introduced by Kevin Hollinrake MP in the House of Commons. The legislation, if successful in the House of Lords, will mean that families will be given the legal authority to act on their missing loved ones’ behalf in order to safeguard their financial and legal affairs while they are missing.

At the moment there is no legal provision for families to look after their missing loved ones’ affairs in their absence. They can struggle to ensure their missing person’s bills are paid, their home is protected and their dependents are looked after.  As a result, families are forced to stand by and watch as the life they hope their missing loved one will return to falls apart at what is already an emotionally turbulent time.

The charity has been campaigning for a new law around guardianship since 2008. The campaign has been led by people dealing with the emotional, legal and financial strain of a missing loved one. For these families and many others, the emotional trauma of having a loved one go missing has been compounded by the practical difficulties which they have been forced to struggle with. An estimated 2,500 families will benefit from the introduction of this new law. These include Peter Lawrence, whose daughter Claudia has been missing since 2009 and Eddie Hodges, whose son Carl went missing in February 2016. Both fathers have been instrumental in campaigning for guardianship legislation.

Eddie Hodges said: “For a whole year now, our family has been in pieces, not knowing where Carl is or whether he is safe. And on top of this, we’ve been forced to contest with banks, councils, estate agents, car insurance companies; all of whom refuse to speak to us as we are not the account holders. I even struggled to pay for Carl’s parking fine without extensive assistance from the police. It is very upsetting and unnecessary.”

Peter Lawrence said: “The thousands of families with a missing adult, for whom I speak, are both pleased and relieved that the legislation which will enable them to look after their missing family member’s affairs has today moved one step closer. It has been a long time coming and we will continue to campaign and press the government until legislation is passed and in force. Only then can we do what everyone else takes for granted on a daily basis, and that is how we should be.”

The campaign has enjoyed cross-party support so far and has been championed by MPs including Ann Coffey MP and Kevin Hollinrake MP as well as the British Banker’s Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Susannah Drury, Director of Policy and Research at the charity Missing People said “We are encouraged that after years of campaigning, the government has prioritised this legislation. Guardianship will not only help to lessen the strain on thousands of families already dealing with the emotional distress of having a missing loved one, it will also mean that a returning missing person will not return to find their legal and financial affairs in disarray.

“We would like to thank those who have been instrumental throughout this process, especially Clifford Chance, the Ministry of Justice and every family member and MP who has worked with us throughout this campaign.”

The bill will now pass to the House of Lords to be further debated before hopefully becoming part of legislation later this year.

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