York & North Yorkshire

Claudia Lawrence: Missing persons 'guardianship' law goes before MPs

Peter Lawrence and Claudia Lawrence Image copyright PA
Image caption Peter Lawrence, picture with his daughter Claudia, wants a new law to allow "guardianship" of legal and financial matters on behalf of the missing person

The family of Claudia Lawrence have called on MPs to support a proposed law that allows relatives of missing people to deal with their financial affairs.

Miss Lawrence disappeared on her way to work in York in March 2009.

Her father, Peter Lawrence, who has been campaigning for changes to the powers available to relatives, called current legislation "mind-boggling".

MPs unanimously backed "Claudia's Law" in the Commons, which will go to a second reading next month.

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Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, proposed the bill. It is likely to need government support to be instated.

Last year, the Ministry of Justice said it was "crucial we get the legislation right on such a sensitive issue".

Miss Lawrence, from the Heworth area of York, was 35 when she disappeared on her way to work at the University of York.

Four men, in their 50s, were arrested in 2015 in connection with her disappearance but were released from bail.

'Mind-boggling'

Under current law in England and Wales, the disappearance of a person does not affect the ownership or control of their property and affairs.

Mr Lawrence said: "After Claudia disappeared I couldn't believe there wasn't any law in place in this country to enable those left behind to look after financial affairs.

"It was just mind-boggling at a time when you're emotionally at your lowest ebb."

Image caption MP Kevin Hollinrake proposed the new guardianship bill in Parliament

Mr Hollinrake told the Commons a guardian should be appointed after an adult was missing for more than 90 days.

They would act on behalf of the missing person for up to four years, which could be renewed by a court application, and they would be held to account by the Office of the Public Guardian.

Mr Hollinrake said the proposed law would ease families' suffering.

"The guardian will take control of the financial affairs of the missing person, will have authority to act on their behalf and will be able to use the property of the missing person to help those left behind," he said.

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