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Burke brings forward legislation to assist families of missing persons

9th November 2013 - Colm Burke TD

Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator, Colm Burke, has today (Tuesday) called on all Senators to support the introduction of legislation to assist the families of missing persons in dealing with the management of the missing person’s estate. Senator Burke was speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Private Members debate in the Seanad, on the Civil Law (Missing Persons) Bill 2013, which he published earlier this year.

“The records of the Missing Persons Bureau of An Garda Síochána show that almost 20 people are reported missing every day; amounting to over 7,000 missing person reports annually. While in the vast majority of cases the person who has been thought to be missing turns up safe, unfortunately some do not.

“As the law presently stands, in cases where a person remains missing, and it is clear from all evidence available that they have died, there is no legal procedure available to allow for their estate to be managed.

“The primary purpose of the Bill is to deal with the civil law status of missing persons. It puts in place a statutory framework which would provide for the making of a presumption of death order in respect of two categories of missing persons. The first category is where the circumstances of the disappearance indicate that death is virtually certain. The second category is where both the circumstances and the length of the disappearance indicate that it is highly probable that the missing person has died and will not return.

“The Bill is intended to clarify the legal position as to who is entitled to apply to the Court for an Interim Manager to be appointed to manage the missing person’s estate, and what procedures must be complied with, before the Courts will issue a Presumption of Death Order. This person may be the spouse, civil partner or co-habitant of the missing person or another family member.

“I published this Bill in response to the production of a report entitled ‘Civil Law Aspects of Missing Persons’ by the Law Reform Commission. The report provides a comprehensive examination of the difficulties that exist for the families of missing persons. This Bill takes account of those difficulties and seeks to provide the legal mechanisms to assist the families of missing persons.

“It is important that when such a comprehensive report is produced that it is not left on the shelf to gather dust. I am therefore pleased that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD, will be present at the Seanad debate tomorrow. It will be an important first step in assisting families who have found themselves in very difficult circumstances.”

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