THE fight to give victims of crime greater rights has been taken before the House of Commons during a 10-minute rule bill put forward by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, which highlighted how Jane Clough was failed by the judicial system.
Mr Stephenson presented his Bail (Amendment) Bill in front of MPs in the hope to get the Bail Act 1976 changed in favour of offering the prosecution a right of appeal against a judge’s decision to give a defender bail.
He was supported by Jane’s parents Penny and John, of Higherford, along with 10 other relatives who were in Parliament to hear him address the case.
Mr Stephenson told MPs Judge Simon Newell released Jane’s murderer Jonathan Vass on bail against the advice of police and the Crown Prosecution Service, despite him being charged with nine counts of rape and four of common and sexual assault against her.
Mr Stephenson said: “We need to re-balance the legal standing of bail verdicts. By allowing the prosecution to appeal against bail decisions, we will make sure judges can be held accountable for the decisions they make.
“At the moment the system is unfairly weighted towards the defendant.
“By murdering Jane, Vass ensured the only witness to his crimes could not testify against him. Our legal system failed to protect her.”
The amendment proposed by My Stephenson would not only give the right of appeal to the prosecution, but give victims and families more influence over the legal process.
More than 50 MPs support the bill and want to see the issue addressed, however, the Private Members’ Bills is notoriously difficult to get through to the point of law. Mr Stephenson has also written to the Attorney General asking if the government would be willing to look at the bill and a signed petition.
Mr Stephenson said: “I think it went very well. Obviously it was quite emotional making the speech and proposing the bill in front of John and Penny, but I was able to look up to them and pay tribute to their courage.
“I have had a lot of support from across the house from all three political parties, and I’m keen to do whatever I can.
“This has been a long time overdue and I am keen to keep pursuing and start putting pressure on ministers.”
Jane’s dad John said: “It was great to see Andrew in action and witness the reading of the bill. It was very emotional for us and we want to say thank you for all his help.”
A second reading of the bill will be read on January 20th, 2012.