Family's plight to change disturbing law after mum, 27, killed by ex-partner

·News Reporter
·4-min read

A devastated family are fighting to change a law that allows their daughter's killer to still have parental responsibility for his children, despite sentenced to life in prison for murdering their mum.

Jade Marsh, 27, was found dead at her home in Shotton, in North Wales, last August with Russell Marsh, 29, her estranged ex, arrested soon after he turned himself in.

Ms Marsh was stabbed and strangled and suffered multiple wounds across her body – including her face and arms — as well as having extensive bruising, The Sun reported.

He disfigured her face with a knife, before choking her to death, while their four sons slept in the same house.

But despite Marsh being convicted of the horrific crime earlier this month, which took place just metres from their sleeping children, he still holds parental responsibility for their children.

Jade Marsh (left) and Russel Marsh in a police photo (right).
Russell Marsh was convicted of murdering the mother of his kids, Jade Marsh, but still has parental responsibility of the children. Source: The Sun/ North Wales Police Facebook

Killer dad has control over kids' welfare

It's believed the young children, four boys who can't be named for legal reasons, are staying with Ms Marsh's sister following the death of their mum.

In the UK, imprisonment does not automatically restrict parental responsibility so Russell Marsh, legally, still has control over their welfare. This is what the family are desperate to change.

A family friend and law graduate Edwin Duggan told North Wales Live what happened to the family was "utterly tragic," so he's trying to help in whatever way he can.

"Although [the responsibility] is limited during his time in custody, the family are now faced with having to seek his permission for anything that relates to their welfare during the time they are in the care of anyone other than their parents," he said.

"We all want this change in the law to create some sort of measure for future children that find themselves involved in tragic circumstances such as these, and their surviving family from having to go back through further court processes."

As it stands, Ms Marsh's family, and current carers, can't take the kids on holiday outside of the UK without Marsh's permission. It's also required he's involved in medical decisions where the kids are concerned.

Jade Marsh, mother of four kids, smiling with hand in hair
Jade Marsh, 27, was murdered last year and her family is trying to get custody of her four kids. Source: Go Fund Me

The family are pushing for "Jade's Law" which will aim to ensure other families won't face the same ordeal.

The petition calls for the automatic suspension of parent responsibility of any parent found guilty of murdering the other. So far they have just over 2,250 signatures.

They need 10,000 signatures by October for the UK government to respond to the petition.

What does Australian law say?

In Australia, the law is similar as far as parental rights are concerned, Dr Noam Peleg, a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Faculty of Law and Justice, told Yahoo News Australia.

"Even if a parent committed a crime and was convicted of a crime, they will still, from a legal point of view, still have all the responsibility to make decisions about the child’s life — unless it’s been revoked by the court," the family law expert said.

To have this overturned, another family member will have to apply for parental responsibility at the family court, "but that in itself will not revoke the parental status of the offender," Dr Peleg said.

At the very least it will allow more flexibility around decision making as far as the child's welfare is concerned.

But until then a carer has "no legal authority to make decisions about that child", he added.

Zoe Rathus AM, a senior lecturer at Griffith Law School and a family law expert said the court will always rule in favour of the children and what's in their best interest.

Speaking about the case of Ms Marsh and her family, Ms Rathus said that Russell Marsh being convicted of murder "doesn’t change the fact he is still the father at law".

"The family law act specifically says that when a child is born, both parents have parental responsibility and that stays until it’s ever changed by a court order," she told Yahoo News Australia.

In many cases, carers, including Ms Marsh's family, have no issues when it comes to the day-to-day welfare of the child, she said.

But difficulties certainly arise when it comes to something more formal, such as medical or passport concerns, which is when the courts get involved.

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