Press release

New law for missing persons

Families of missing people will be given help to cope with the complex legal and financial issues they face under plans backed today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Families of missing people will be given help to cope with the complex legal and financial issues they face under plans backed today by the Government.

Justice Minister Helen Grant announced today that the Government will be supporting a Private Members Bill which will introduce a presumption of death certificate. The Bill introduced by John Glen, MP for Salisbury, follows our announcement earlier this year of our plans to simplify the law around the affairs of those who are missing presumed dead.

The presumption of death certificate will be equivalent to a death certificate in its legal power and will help to simplify the processes and problems faced by those left behind. Having the certificate will help families deal with different aspects of the affairs of the missing person, such as existing direct debits or access to bank accounts.

Justice Minister Helen Grant said:

‘This is a terrible situation that no family should have to go through. No-one can prepare for the heartache and confusion when a loved one disappears with no trace.

‘The existing system is convoluted and an additional nightmare for families to overcome. That is why we are changing the law and making the process much more straightforward.

‘The changes will create a simple legal framework to ensure bereaved people can deal with the property and affairs of a loved one who has gone missing and is presumed dead.’
Nicola Sharp, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Missing People said:

‘Missing People is delighted by this timely announcement from the MoJ backing John Glen’s Private Member’s Bill. The charity has been campaigning to end the unnecessary heartache faced by families when they seek to have a loved one legally presumed dead and today’s announcement will be welcomed by them.’

The Ministry of Justice contributed to new guidance published in August 2012 by the UK Missing Person’s Bureau. This guidance on presumption of death provides advice on the current law and support to families of missing people.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536 or via Twitter@mojpress.
  2. Read the Government’s response from July 2012 to the Justice Select Committee report.
  3. Read the Justice Select Committee report from February 2012.
  4. The All-party parliamentary group (APPG) published a report in 2011 on runaway and missing children which informed the MoJ’s response.
  5. For more information from Missing People’s press office please call 020 8392 4511.
  6. For more information on Missing People please visit
  7. Read the Missing Persons Bureau guidance.
Published 2 November 2012