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The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill is a House of Commons private member’s bill introduced by Kevin Hollinrake (Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton). It is sponsored in the House of Lords by Baroness Hamwee (Liberal Democrat). It passed through all stages in the House of Commons without amendment and is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 6 April 2017. Baroness Hamwee also introduced a Missing Persons Guardianship Bill in the House of Lords in this session. It received its first reading on 14 June 2016, but made no further progress. Baroness Hamwee has withdrawn that Bill in order to allow the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill to proceed in its place.

The Bill would enable applications to the courts to appoint a guardian to act on behalf of a missing person in respect of the missing person’s property and financial affairs. The Bill would also create a regime for supervising and regulating the way that guardians exercise their powers. It would apply to England and Wales only.

As the law stands, when a person disappears nobody has legal authority to protect or manage their property or financial assets while they are missing. Such disappearances can lead to the dissipation of assets (for example, through direct debits that cannot be cancelled) and their deterioration or loss (for example, through lack of maintenance or failure to meet mortgage payments). The person’s disappearance can also deprive dependants of support they may be used to receiving from the missing person, and leave third parties unable to conclude ongoing business with the missing person or to make sensible arrangements with those left behind. The Bill aims to resolve this by creating a procedure for obtaining authority to protect the interests of the missing person. The Ministry of Justice estimates that it is likely there would be between 50 and 100 applications a year for a guardianship order, with the possibility of an early spike when the system was introduced, covering applications for existing cases.

The Bill is supported by the Government, the Labour Party and the charity Missing Persons. It has come to be referred to informally as “Claudia’s Law” in reference to Claudia Lawrence, a chef who went missing in 2009 and has not been seen since. Kevin Hollinrake has been working with her parents, who have been campaigning for a guardianship law.

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