Unmarried Woman Wins Legal Fight Over Lack of Bereavement Damages - RightsInfo

Unmarried Woman Wins Legal Fight Over Lack of Bereavement Damages

A woman who was in a relationship with her partner for more than 15 years before he died has won a legal battle over the rights of unmarried couples.

Jakki Smith, an NHS Worker from Lancashire, took the Government to court when her partner John Bulloch died after an infection was missed by medics.

She was subsequently denied the standard bereavement damages of £12,980 paid to spouses or civil partners after deaths due to negligence, something she said was a breach of her human rights.

Better Rights for All Unmarried People

Zak Golombeck represented Jakki in the case. Image Credit: Slater Gordon / Twitter

The Court of Appeal, who had allowed her to appeal the case after it was dismissed by the High Court, agreed that the current rules were in breach of the Human Rights Convention.

The ruling said the award should be given to anyone who has been in a relationship for at least two years at the point of death – regardless of if they were married, in a civil partnership or not. It’s a ruling that will undoubtedly have an effect on future cases.

Zak Golombeck, the lawyer who represented Jakki, argued that the current legislation breached both Article 8 of the convention, the right to family life, and Article 14, the right not to be discriminated against, in relation to not being married.

John and I didn’t need a piece of paper to prove our love and commitment to each other. We had simply decided that getting married wasn’t for us.

Jakki Smith

Speaking after the case Jakki said she was “over the moon” with the decision. The 59-year-old added: “John and I didn’t need a piece of paper to prove our love and commitment to each other. We had simply decided that getting married wasn’t for us.

“Until John died I hadn’t realised that our relationship would be treated any differently and when I did it just struck me as hurtful and unfair that it could be considered less meaningful because of that.

“John and I had planned a life together, we were in it for the long run and the fact that our bond wasn’t recognised, simply because we hadn’t chosen to marry was very upsetting.”

An ‘Historic Decision’

Jakki speaking on BBC News after the ruling. Image Credit: BBC News

Mr Golombeck, from Slater Gordon, said the judgment was an “historic decision”,  as well as “long overdue”.

He added: “The way we live is changing. Couples are choosing not to marry but this does not detract from the bond they have. My client had been with her partner, John, for 16 years and they were totally committed to each other.

The Law Commission had previously recommended that co-habiting couples should be given bereavement damages, though a Government draft bill on the issue never came to fruition.

Featured Image: Slater Gordon

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Jem Collins

Jem is the News and Social Media Editor at RightsInfo. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a free resources project, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. View all posts by Jem Collins.
Unmarried Woman Wins Legal Fight Over Lack of Bereavement Damages
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