THE fight to get justice for Barrowford murder victim Jane Clough has moved a step closer after top politicians tabled plans to change bail laws.
Jane’s parents, John and Penny of Higherford, have been campaigning for a change in the law since she was murdered in July, 2010, and have spoken of their “utter relief” on learning a bail appeal process is imminent that would help to safeguard victims.
The Blackpool Victoria Hospital nurse was just 26 when she was brutally stabbed by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass while out on bail amid a series of rape charges against her.
John and Penny have been fighting for the right to allow victims to appeal a judge’s bail decision and believe that if Jane had had this right she would still be alive today.
In light of the Cloughs’ “Justice for Jane” campaign, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt this week announced public safety will be boosted by new measures to stop offenders from being bailed in a way which allowed them to go on and commit more crimes.
“As a matter of course, defendants who have committed violent crimes and pose a danger to the public are always remanded in custody while they are awaiting trial,” Mr Blunt said.
“But we know there have been occasions when offenders have been bailed and have gone on to commit more, and sometimes very serious, crimes.”
The Government plan to make it legal for prosecutors to challenge a Crown Court decision to release a defendant on bail, by tabling amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Offenders Bill.
Until now, there has been no way for Crown Court bail decisions to be challenged. The change means victims and families who are worried about their safety will be able to let prosecutors know their concerns, and steps can be taken to ensure they are protected.
The move would come in line with the right of appeal against magistrates’ decisions on bail in the magistrates’ court.
Penny said: “It’s been a phenomenal journey and we’re still very excited by it all. It is fantastic to think this is going to save lives. The victims should not be put in more danger by the legal system and we were incensed that a judge could do that.”
For well over a year, John and Penny have worked tirelessly to see changes made to the law and were last week in the House of Commons to hear Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson push forward the campaign during Prime Minister’s Questions. After months of pressure on the Government, the campaign was publicly backed by the Prime Minister with him telling the House of Commons that there was “a strong case” for changing the law.
Penny added: “It needs to happen and it’s amazing that everyone is on board no matter what political party. There has been such a mix of politicians saying that this needs to happen and it all comes down to Andrew Stephenson. If he hadn’t done all what he has done we wouldn’t be where we are today and we are so grateful to him. It has still got to get through the House of Lords but we’re pretty sure that it will.
“The victims of crime have no voice so we need to be it for them and this is what Jane would have wanted us to fight for.”
Mr Stephenson said: “I am delighted the Government has brought forward this amendment so soon after the Prime Minister gave the legal change his personal endorsement last week. The Justice for Jane campaign has taken another big step forward in providing extra protection to the victims of rape and domestic violence.”