Category Archives: Missing People

Huddersfield Solicitor Lends Support to Missing Persons’ Guardianship Law

A campaign to change the law affecting missing people is a step nearer according to Huddersfield solicitor Sarah Young, following a joint APPG (All Party Parliamentary Groups) round table meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday 28th October 2014.

Partner Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall Solicitors was invited to speak at the event by the charity Missing People.  The APPG for missing and runaway children and adults, together with the APPG for insurance and financial services, arranged the round table meeting following the introduction of the Presumption of Death Act 2013 which came into force on 1st October 2014.  Sarah Young explains: -

“The Presumption of Death Act should make it an easier and quicker process for families to deal with a missing person’s affairs once it has been accepted that they are presumed dead.  But the Act doesn’t help families who want to manage the financial and legal problems that arise when someone is missing, and it is hoped that they may return”.  She goes on to say: -

“The charity Missing People has been campaigning since 2010 for a new guardianship system to be introduced to give families the legal right to manage a missing person’s affairs.  This could help to prevent legal action for unpaid bills and properties being repossessed”.

An obvious concern if a guardian is to be appointed is the extent to which they should be allowed to act for the missing person and what would happen if the missing person turned up.  These issues and others were aired at the round table discussion.  Sarah Young is optimistic: -

“It was very heartening that there was a broad consensus from those representing insurers, banks and the families of missing people that a system of guardianship should and could be introduced.  A Ministry of Justice consultation ends on 18th November and after that I hope that the government will be persuaded of the need to introduce primary legislation to help families at what is a desperately difficult time in their lives.”

Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley & Hall Solicitors in Huddersfield. She specialises in contentious probate cases and has a particular interest in cases involving missing people and supports the work being done by the charity Missing People.

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley and Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on her direct dial 01484 558838 or her mobile 07860 165850.

BBC South Presumption of Death Act news feature – interview with Sarah Young

Sarah YoungRidley & Hall Partner Sarah Young was interviewed by BBC South on 2nd October 2014 as a national expert on cases involving missing people (see news feature video) clip below. The Presumption of Death Act 2013 came into force on 1st October and transforms the legal landscape for families seeking to resolve the affairs of a missing person who is believed to have died.

Sarah has a particular expertise in missing person cases and assisting family members throughout England and Wales to deal with the difficult and often complex issues that can arise in such circumstances. For further information or advice please contact Sarah on 01484 538421 or email

Ridley & Hall Listed in Legal 500 for 4th Successive Year

Ridley & Hall is delighted to announce that we have been listed in the Legal 500 in three separate areas; contentious probate, family and private client work.

The Legal 500 is a trusted directory providing comprehensive information on the UK’s recommended leading law firms.

Our Contentious Probate team, headed by partner Sarah Young has been listed as a third tier specialist department and highlights Sarah’s work in missing people.

Sarah commented; “I am delighted that the hard work and dedication of my team, and the work of our family and private client teams has been recognised by the Legal 500.”

In addition to her specialist knowledge and experience of dealing with complex contentious probate claims, Sarah is one of leading experts in missing people and has acted for many relatives who are seeking orders in relation to missing relatives.

Our expert Family team have been listed in the Legal 500 for a fourth consecutive year, which team leader and qualified mediator Vicky Medd is extremely proud of.

“When legal aid was abolished for the majority of private family law cases, many thought this would mean the end of family departments,” commented Vicky, “however with our range of fixed fee packages which we can tailor to an individual’s needs and financial circumstances, we are able to continue to grow as a department.”

Finally, the Private Client department which specialises in a range of services including Wills, probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney has also been re-listed for a fourth time. The head of department, Jill Waddington and her team have extensive experience in complex probate and inheritance tax matters.

Managing Partner, Adam Fletcher, commented, “The recognition from Legal 500 reiterates our commitment to delivering a high standard of service to our clients. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the practice provides, not only the usual services you would expect from a high street firm, but we are also leading the way in niche areas such as kinship care, court of protection and missing people.”

Police Failing Missing People

A recent published report raises concerns about police investigations into missing people. Approximately 313,000 people were reported missing in England and Wales in 2011-2012.  The cost of investigating them is equivalent to £400–£600 million a year – or 14% of the total annual police budget.  Worrying new research has revealed that 51% of police sergeants, who are responsible for overseeing the initial stages of missing persons investigations, have not read the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Guidelines on assessing risk.  49% had also not read the force’s own guidance documents.

A report published on 27th January 2014 by Richard Smith and Dr Karen Shalev Greene from the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons at the University of Portsmouth, surveyed 215 police sergeants in a large police force in England.  All of them had been in a senior role for at least 5 years.

Dr Shalev Greene said: “Decision making is all too often subjective and inconsistent.  One police sergeant might judge the risk of a set of circumstances as high and another might judge the same circumstances as medium.  The challenge for policing is to remove such subjective measures, or at least place them within a more objective framework that ensures when the power of hindsight is being applied, the decision still stands up to scrutiny”.

The report argues that police officers should calculate risk by adhering to a formal framework such as the National Decision Model.  The model is a tool that all UK police forces are expected to use when making decisions, including those related to missing persons, firearms incidents and public order command situations.  The research highlights that it is not yet being used consistently.

Dr Shalev Greene said “The report raises the question that if officers aren’t taking responsibility for reading key documentation, what else are they missing?  And if their training is said to be ineffective what other skills are they not being taught?”

The report goes on to recommend that duty inspectors should be given ‘ownership’ of all missing people cases for the first 48 hours, passing the case to other duty inspectors between shifts, to allow for a genuinely critical review of the risk assessment of shift handovers.

Sarah Young, Partner with Ridley & Hall Solicitors in Huddersfield comments: “I deal with a number of cases involving missing people.  It is a uniquely traumatic event for a family when a loved one goes missing and it is vital for them to feel that the police are doing absolutely everything within their power to the highest possible standards.  This report will, I hope, be read carefully and its recommendations implemented. “

She added:
“Research in this area is in its early stages but as this report shows, it is vital for identifying gaps in provision and to provide insight into what more can and should be done to safeguard and support missing people and their families.”

Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley and Hall solicitors. She specialises in contentious probate law. Sarah has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

Solicitor, Sarah Young, Ridley & Hall Solicitors

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley and Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on 01484 538421 or mobile 07860 165850.

New ‘Guardianship’ Law to Help Families of Missing People

The Presumption of Death Act, which received royal assent in May 2013, put in place the legal framework to enable families of someone who has gone missing to obtain a certificate of presumed death.  That certificate will help families deal with the many legal and financial issues that arise when a person is missing and will be equivalent to a death certificate.  It replaces the current patchwork of legal provisions that can be a very difficult minefield for families to navigate and will come into force in April 2014.

The Act has one major defect however – identified by the Chief Executive of charity Missing People, Jo Youle;

“The absence of “guardianship” provisions means that families currently face a huge ordeal in managing their missing loved one’s affairs.  Ongoing direct debits can drain a missing person’s bank account, some families are forced to pay both halves of a joint mortgage and some families risk losing their homes.”

In response, the government has put forward a proposal to create a new power of guardianship.  The proposals would allow a guardian to be appointed who can manage the missing person’s property and affairs. If they are implemented as planned in April 2014, these provisions will make a significant difference to the families of missing people in the months and sometimes years after someone has gone missing. At present they have no way to make alternative arrangements until their loved one can be presumed dead.

Jo Youle added:

“We look forward to working with families and other partners following this very positive announcement to help ensure the most efficient system for families facing significant practical and financial challenges alongside the distress of a disappearance.”

There is some concern amongst legal practitioners that the procedures under the new Act will be more expensive than at present as a hearing will be required in front of a High Court Judge.  Sarah Young, Partner at Ridley & Hall solicitors in Huddersfield, comments:

“Over the last year I have obtained four ‘leave to swear death’ orders for the families of people that have gone missing.  It’s not always a straightforward process but it does have the advantage that the case is dealt with on the papers alone; no court hearing is required. Once the new Act is in force, in April 2014, the costs of obtaining a certificate will probably increase substantially because a court hearing will be required.  So I would urge families of someone who has gone missing – if they are as sure as they can be that they are not going to return – to apply for a ‘leave to swear death’ order under the current provisions before April 2014.”

She adds:

“Having dealt with a number of cases involving missing people I think that the guardianship proposals will be incredibly important.  It can be very difficult emotionally for families to seek an order confirming that their loved one has died; it can feel like giving up on them. Guardianship powers offer a ‘halfway house’ and will help to protect the assets of missing people.”

Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley & Hall solicitors. She specialises in inheritance disputes and contentious probate. Sarah has a Masters degree in personal injury law and has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

For further information please contact Sarah Young of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL on 01484 538421 or mobile 07860 165850.