House of Lords back Jane’s Law following murder of Barrowford nurse

Jane
Jane

JANE Clough. Her name conjures up a thousand words. “Precious daughter”, “loving mother”, “dear friend” and now “victim’s voice”.

Jane was just 26 when she was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass in a story that shocked the nation and led to questions being asked surrounding the British judicial system.

jane clough

jane clough

It was every parent’s worst nightmare when police turned up at John and Penny Clough’s home in Higherford on July 25th 2010, telling them the news that would shatter their world. Their daughter was dead.

Jane had been murdered in cold blood by 30-year-old Preston man Vass in the car park of the Victoria Hospital, Blackpool, where she worked as a staff nurse. Chillingly she had predicted her own death in diary entries and was living each day in fear after a judge released Vass on bail despite the nine counts of rape and four of assault he was charged with.

Jane was meant to be at the prime of her life. She had just given birth to daughter Imogen, and following her maternity leave had just returned to work at the A&E department.

She was a member of local church St Thomas’s, Barrowford, and touched the lives of everyone she met. Her caring nature saw her visit the elderly who were unable to get to church and she would take along nine-month Imogen much to their delight.

Penny and John Clough with the tree that has been planted in memory of their daughter Jane at Barrowford Cemetery.

Penny and John Clough with the tree that has been planted in memory of their daughter Jane at Barrowford Cemetery.

But behind her courage, Jane was hiding a world of pain brought on by Vass. She had been worried to leave her Camden Street home in Barrowford for fear of him coming to get her and in her diary wrote, “I’ve been worrying today about Jonny coming to get me, even killing me. What would stop him?”

Even though Jane was brave enough to report the crimes committed against her and put her trust in the system, a decision by Judge Simon Newell granted Vass bail.

Due to there being no rights of appeals for victims, Jane was unable to do anything about it and became a prisoner in her own home. Effectively she paid for that decision with her life.

Since losing their youngest daughter, John and Penny both 51, have found strength to fight to get justice for Jane, helping other victims in the hope it will prevent history from repeating itself.

They suitably named the campaign Justice for Jane and embarked on an 18 month plight to stop this from happening again. With the help of MP Andrew Stephenson, they set about changing the Bail Bill. And after their long, hard journey they have defied the odds and in doing so will help safeguard so many victims.

The campaign to give victims the right of appeal has seen them travel up and down the country, meet with influential peers and even secure the backing of Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron - an accolade in itself.

And last week the House of Lords gave their outright support to the change in law. It will now mean that victims like Jane will hold greater powers in that they will have the right to appeal against a Crown Court judge’s bail ruling at the High Court through prosecutors.

John and Penny were there to hear the moving of the Bail (Amendment) Act which went unchallenged in the house put forward by Mr Stephenson who has pushed the campaign to the top. Described as “Jane’s Law” it will become law when the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill receives Royal Assent which is believed to be around Easter time.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Beecham said that if standing ovations were given, the Higherford couple would be greeted with one.

“I salute the dignity and courage with which they are not only bearing the loss of a beloved daughter in the most appalling circumstances but the way they have campaigned with support from a wide range of individuals, organisations and across party.”

John said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet. The whole process has been a whirlwind from when it got Government support, to David Cameron lending his support which of course carried a lot of weight, to when the House of Lords gave their backing.

“We are still on cloud nine and can’t believe what we have achieved. There was always going to be a niggle in the back of your mind that it might not happen, but if that had been the case we would have just carried on. We are only here because of the amount of public support that we have received and we will carry on speaking up for victims who don’t have a voice.

“Jane was always going to come out and speak up for victims, but she didn’t have the chance so we’re doing it for her, it had to be done.

“It is such a small change in the law but we feel like it will make a huge difference, to know that an offender won’t automatically get a right of bail is fantastic. It’s great to know that victims themselves now have rights and we are protecting people like Jane.

“We want to thank Andrew Stephenson for all his help because we wouldn’t be where we are today without his help. We have met some pretty influential people along the way who we will be meeting with in the future to see what we can do next.

“We’ve got a long list which we are working thorough and we will be meeting with Keir Starmer to discuss charges being laid on file. He has proposed be an exception rather than the rule.

“Because of all this support we have now got Justice for Jane. We want to thank everyone for all their help.”

Timeline of events

July 25th, 2010: Jane is stabbed 71 times outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital where she works. Her colleagues do not recognise her.

August 10th, 2010: Jane’s funeral is held at St Thomas’s Church, Barrowford, where she is a member. Emotional tributes are paid to the “loving mum, sister, daughter and friend” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is played to a packed church.

October 14th, 2010: Jonathan Vass is sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to Jane’s murder.

October 22nd, 2010: John and Penny thank everyone for their support and Jane’s colleagues at Blackpool Victoria launch a fund-raising campaign for baby Imogen.

May 15th, 2011: Viewers see cold-hearted Vass appear on an ITV documentary “Strangeways” blaming Jane for his actions.

June 28th, 2011: Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson takes the case before Parliament at the House of Commons where he proposes a right of appeal against a judge’s decision. During the 10-minute rule bill he lays out the Bail (amendment) bill. Receives support from peers.

July 13th, 2011: The Justice for Jane campaign is launched online in a bid to get as many signatures as possible to get the Bail Act changed. In it’s first few days it sees 2,000 people give their signature to a change in the law.

September 1st, 2011: A scheme to prompt organ and tissue donation following the death of a loved one is launched. It is referred to as “Jane’s Card”. Unfortunately Jane was unable to donate her organs despite it being her wish.

September 29th, 2011: Pendle Council’s meeting of the Full Council unanimously gives their support and backing to Mr Stephenson’s campaign seeking to amend the law.

October 11th , 2011: The Government accepts “in principle” the need to change bail laws. Crispin Blunt MP says the government would like to include the change in law as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender’s Bill. It is deemed a huge step by Mr Stephenson and Jane’s parents.

October 20th, 2011: John and Penny meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC in London to discuss the Bail (amendment) Bill. It is a significant step and sees support form Mr Starmer.

January 4th, 2012: The signatures on the Justice for Jane campaign stand at around 14,000 online and 12,000 on paper. John and Penny appear on ITV’s This Morning to promote the campaign.

January 11th, 2012: Prime Minister says there is a “strong case” to change the law during Prime Minister’s Questions where Mr Stephenson invites Mr Cameron to share his thoughts on the campaign.

January 20th, 2012: The Clough’s fight to get justice moves a step closes after top politicians tabled plans to change the bail laws. A bail appeal process is imminent.

February 9th, 2012: The House of Lord’s back the introduction of Jane’s Law, it goes unchallenged in the House. The amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offender’s Bill creates a right of appeal against the grant of bail by a crown court.

Easter 2012: Jane’s Law is set to receive Royal Assent.