Prime Minister pays tribute to parents of murdered Barrowford nurse
THE Prime Minister has paid tribute to the family of murdered Barrowford nurse Jane Clough adding there is a “strong case” for changing the law to help victims like Jane.
During the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the year, Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson addressed David Cameron about his Bail (Amendment) Bill which would offer victims the right of appeal against judges’ bail decisions. In 2010, mum-of-one Jane (26) was stabbed 71 times by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass while he was released on bail following a decision by Judge Simon Newell. Vass had been charged with raping Jane nine times.
Mr Stephenson told the House of Commons that, in October, the Justice team had agreed to change the law and invited the Prime Minister to confirm when it would happen.
In response, Mr Cameron said an amendment would be added to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that would carry a right of appeal to a high court judge against the granting of bail by a crown court.
He also praised the work of the Conservative MP in fighting for a change in the law.
“On behalf of the House can I pay tribute to my honourable friend (Mr Stephenson) for the work he has done on the issue and on this case. My sympathy goes out to the family who have suffered so appallingly.
“The Government accepts in principle there should be a right of appeal against crown court decisions allowing bail. There is a strong case for changing the law. I hope this will improve the law and will be more helpful to victims and the family Mr Stephenson represents so well.”
Jane’s parents John and Penny, of Higherford, have campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the Justice for Jane campaign and were watching from the public gallery on Wednesday to hear the question put to the Prime Minister. If the bill is passed it could become law as early as Easter.
John said: “It will become Jane’s legacy if we can prevent another family from having to go through what we went through. We have shown there is public and parliamentary support for it and if we can get the support of the Lords there is a very real possibility it could become law as soon as Easter.”
The Cloughs believe that had a protocol been in place where they were able to protest Vass’ appeal, Jane would still be alive.
Last week, the couple appeared on ITV’s “This Morning” alongside presenters Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby talking about the campaign to gain more support. The programme resulted in almost 1,000 new signatures added to the petition with Mr Schofield telling the couple: “I hope this is the beginning of the result you want.”
Jane had been so brutally stabbed in the car park of Blackpool Victoria Hospital where she was a nurse, that colleagues failed to recognise her when she was brought in.
Penny said: “Jane documented that Vass would kill her and that came true. To us it’s about keeping the victims safe and it should be the victim’s safety that needs to be taken into account. Jane scored very highly on all the risk factors yet still that man was let out. It gave her no protection whatsoever.”
Even though Vass was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the rape charges were ordered to lie on file as the murder charge was greater and the rape charges would not necessarily add to his sentence - something which the Cloughs strongly protest.
“It cost Jane her life to get to that stage to testify against him and she paid for the right to have those charges heard with her life. Up to 60 people a year are being killed by people who are out on bail for violent offences, it’s too much,” John said.
“We believe the motive of the murder was to prevent the rape charges going ahead. Vass has avoided being put on the sex offenders register and will not be known as a sex offender in prison.”
John has since added the notion of charges being laid on file is being looked at and hopes it will become an exception rather than a rule.
A second parliamentary hearing that was proposed to be read a week today has been deferred until March 20th. The Justice for Jane petition currently has over 14,000 signatures. Please go to www.justiceforjane.co.uk and follow the link to sign the petition.