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Where was the government in Kerrie Backhouse’s case?

As every lawyer in the land will confirm, the law can be a slow moving beast, sometimes taking many decades to catch up with changing social realities. Witness the rapid rise of cohabitation over recent decades. Couples who live together without marrying are now the fastest growing family type in the UK, but there is still no law recognising such relationships in England and Wales.

12 January 2016

Sometimes the legal anomalies which come to light mean inconvenience or loss for a few and sometimes they mean genuine tragedy. Earlier this month I heard about a case that fell firmly into the latter category: Kerrie Backhouse, who lives in Cumbria, had lost her son Kye at the age of just 13. Even more tragically, he had died because his father inexplicably gave him a morphine tablet saying it would cure his headache. The father
was jailed for manslaughter but, to Kerrie's distress, he refused to allow Kye's ashes to be released for burial.

The ashes lay stranded in the funeral home for more than a year. Despite his conviction, in law, without a grant of probate, Kerrie's ex-partner retained an equal say over the funeral arrangements. Kerrie could not afford a lawyer and I could not allow that to continue. So we agreed to help her pro bono.

I asked our probate expert
Jane Gray to see what she could do and, thankfully, we were able t...

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