Missing dead: New law is urgently needed, according to families • Good Non profit


Gavin Rushton (left) and Sarah Rushton (right)Copyright of the image
Sarah Rushton


Sarah Rushton said that she had encountered "so many obstacles" when she had tried to manage the finances of her brother Gavin, who had been missing on his trip off Ecuador in September. 2017.

There is an urgent need for new powers to manage the finances of missing loved ones.

A BBC study found that the number of missing persons declared presumed dead since a change of law in 2014 was lower than expected.

About 80 people were presumed dead under the legislation – the government had planned about 40 a year.

Missing People, a charity, said families of long-term missing people were often threatened by financial ruin.

the Presumption of Death Act allows families to take over the finances of a missing person and came into effect in October 2014.

But another law allowing families to take over the affairs of a missing person without having to testify, they believe that this person has died still waiting for the approval of the minister.

"So many barriers"

Missing People, a charity, said the families of missing persons often found themselves in legal limbo, unable to alter mortgages or cancel pre-payments unless they obtained a certificate of presumption of death. .

The law aims to allow families to solve the financial and practical problems of a missing person who is about to return.

The number of people presumed dead fluctuated between 16 in 2015 and 21 in 2017.

Eighteen presumptive death records were recorded in the first 11 months of 2018, with December figures not yet available.

In 26 cases since 2014, the place of presumed death has not been clarified. Of the rest, 22 people were reported to have died in the United Kingdom, five in Spain, three at sea and two in the Maldives. There are a number of countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America where one of the missing Britons would have died.

The most conspicuous case in which a certificate of presumption of death was published is that of Lord Lucan, whose death certificate was issued under the new legislation 42 years after his disappearance in 1974, when the nanny of his children was murdered.

Others include that of Milton Keynes's John Halford, who unexpectedly left on vacation alone in 2011 after his 25-year-old marriage ran into trouble and disappeared.

Sarah Rushton 's brother, Gavin, analytical chemist and London frequent flyer, disappeared on the island of San Cristobal, near Ecuador, in March 2017.

His body has never been found.

Ms. Rushton described the "many obstacles" to overcome in order to manage her brother's financial affairs, particularly his banking and direct debits.

"You have the trauma of seeing your brother gone and you have to deal with a huge bureaucracy, and you feel like you're asking companies to help you," said Enfield's Rushton.

"I knew after 10 days that he was probably dead because he would not have been out of touch for as long."

Ms. Rushton also testified that she had received misinformation about the steps she could take on the part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the police. She says the two organizations told her that she would need a death certificate from Ecuador before she could sue a presumptive death case in the UK.

Eventually, she managed to apply for a certificate of presumption of death.

Copyright of the image
Themer Slimane


Sarah Young, partner at Ridley and Hall Solicitors in West Yorkshire, has dealt with many presumptive death cases

The Foreign Office said: "We have maintained close contact with the Ecuadorian authorities and search and rescue teams, we have also referred the family to organizations specializing in the search for missing persons, and we have sought their counsel's advice. . "

Sarah Young, a lawyer in Huddersfield, said it was "very disappointing" to give families erroneous advice on what to do if they disappear.

"I constantly have the feeling of fighting a bureaucracy that does not help people," said Ms. Young, a specialist in the case law of missing persons.

"I had clients to whom the Foreign Office said they had to wait seven years and get a death certificate from the country (in which they had disappeared) before they could do anything.

"The police sometimes say that too."

The Foreign Office did not respond directly to Ms. Young's assertions while a spokeswoman for the Police College said police officers must refer families who wish information on the management of affairs of a loved one to the Missing People Charity.

"Hard and traumatic"

Susannah Drury, policy director of the charity Missing People UK, said that while the path of presumed death was appropriate for some families, it did not suit many others for whom the idea to have a missing person declared dead while she thought she was still alive was created. a "living nightmare".

"Many people are asking for the presumption of death in court when they believe that the dear person has died or that there is clear evidence of their death," she said.

"It's a difficult and traumatic step for families.

"For some families, it's never the right thing to do, they hope and believe that their loved one will come back and wish for a life in which they can return."

She recounted how, in one case, the family home of a long-time missing person had been taken over because the family could not afford to repay his mortgage.

"It's heartbreaking," Ms. Drury said. "And we know that families felt obliged to go through the presumption of death (in order to take control of finances)."

New legislation – called the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act and allow families to take over the affairs of a missing person without having to testify and to believe that this person has died – has not yet entered into force despite the obtaining of the Royal Assent in April 2017, pending approval by the Minister.

"More and more families need the new guardianship option," Drury said. "It's getting more and more urgent."

The Justice Department said that even though he had never committed to setting a date for the new rules to come into effect, the new powers should be made available to families from July of this year.