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Missing persons: Law change could allow 'certificate of presumed death'

Families of missing persons, including the parents of Madeleine McCann, may finally have the change in law they have long campaigned for after the Government announced that a 'certificate of presumed death' may be introduced.

The Government has acknowledged that better help and support was needed for people who suffer the disappearance of a relative or friend. Now it looks like that acknowledgement could lead to a change in the law.

The news comes after a parliamentary committee recently criticised the existing law, saying it was a 'patchwork' of measures which did not do enough to help families.

The committee heard evidence from the family of Richey Edwards, a musician with the Manic Street Preachers who went missing in 1995, and Kate and Gerry McCann whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Spain in 2007.

The Justice Ministry has accepted the committee's proposal that a 'certificate of presumed death' should be legally available, which would give families the authority to begin administering a loved-ones' affairs. At present, families are left in limbo for years.

Campaigners argue that the law must allow a 'guardian' to be chosen to act in the best interests of that person in their absence. The Government says that this proposal is complex and has asked the Law Commission to look into the matter on its behalf.

Jonathan Djanogly is Justice Minister.

"The changes we are announcing today will ensure that there is a law in place that provides a simple legal framework by which families of missing people can receive the appropriate guidance and tackle the problems they face in a straightforward manner," he said.

Although the parliamentary schedule is fairly full, it is hoped that a Private Members' Bill from Conservative MP John Glen might gain support from across the whole house, allowing it to become law by next summer.

Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello appears to back the proposal, saying: "It 's now important that the Government makes the parliamentary time so that we can address this important matter," he said.

Source:

Missing persons: Families could get 'certificate of presumed death' (BBC)