“MOST people remember their birthdays for good reasons. I spent my 50th birthday in the morgue at Blackpool Victoria Hospital viewing the remains of my beautiful daughter.”
John Clough’s grief is there for all to see.
He was not alone.
Families of murdered children fighting for changes to the law took strength from each other at Blackpool’s first Gazette-backed Justice for Jane conference.
Around 100 people turned out to support John and Penny Clough’s campaign to change bail rulings to allow the Crown Prosecution Service and victims to appeal judges’ decisions
The couple’s beloved daughter Jane, a nurse at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass who was out on bail after being charged with raping the young mum.
Paul Atkinson, whose sister Claire was murdered by her ex-partner Alan Entwistle while he was also out on bail, was among the speakers at the conference at the De Vere Hotel.
Mr Atkinson, 29, from Thornton, said: “Something has to change now. Where is our justice? Why couldn’t my sister and Jane have been kept alive?
“How many more deaths are there going to be before something is done?
“Claire had two boys she adored. We thought this person did too until we started to see little signs – a black eye, bruising on her arms and wrists.
“He threatened to kill her. She went to the police and a letter was sent to the court to say he was a dangerous man. But Entwistle was still let out on bail. For weeks my mum and dad had to chaperone their daughter. She had a panic alarm and had the locks changed.
“Then one day she decided she had to start living her life instead of being a prisoner.
“She was walking home from work when he took her. He stabbed her 13 times, drove her body around in a car and then crashed it. There is something wrong with the judicial system that lets this happen time and time again.”
The conference on Thursday evening featured speakers including Jean Taylor, founder of Families Fighting for Justice who lost a sister in 1998, a son in 2000 and a daughter in 2004 – all to acts of homicide.
Jo Wood, MBE, service manager at Merseyside’s Rape and Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre, said: “Jane experienced domestic violence and reported it to the police. She very bravely told complete strangers about intimate details of her abuse. That system failed to protect her, just as it fails to protect other women.”
Esther McVey, MP for Wirral West, who is supporting the bail amendment bill put forward by MP Andrew Stephenson on behalf of the Cloughs, also spoke out.
She said: “The stories I’ve heard tonight are heartbreaking. Changing the law is a slow process but the impetus from the public is so great. It’s time victims were put at the heart of the judicial system.”
Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, attended the conference.
He said: “It’s clear the families of victims aren’t being treated with the importance they deserve.
“I’m happy to give my support to the campaign and hope the Government listen. It’s down to MPs like myself to make sure it does change.”
Mr and Mrs Clough, who have been campaigning since their daughter’s death on July 25, last year, gathered signatures for a petition at the event and also launched a website www.justiceforjane.co.uk
Mr Clough, 51, from Barrowford, said: “Jane went to the law for protection from Vass but was put in even more danger. There was nothing she, the CPS or police could do. We are a year on from that awful night when the heart of my family was ripped out but nothing has changed that would prevent something like this happening again. That is why we need your support.”
Sign the petition here: http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/justice-for-jane-clough/3123