Mackrell Turner Garrett

National Lawyers, Internationally


Legal battle win leads to better rights for unmarried couples

White Collar Crime

A woman from Chorley in Lancashire has won a legal battle to be awarded compensation that was previously reserved for spouses or civil partners in relation to the death of her long-term partner.

Jakki Smith, an NHS worker, brought the case against the Government on human rights grounds after she was denied a fixed £12,980 payment following the death of her partner of 16 years, as a consequence of medical negligence.

Ms Smith’s claim had earlier been dismissed by the High Court. However, the Court of Appeal allowed the claim after it was argued that current rules are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Law Commission had previously recommended making bereavement payments available to cohabitees but although draft legislation was prepared in 2009, the proposal was never progressed.

Ms Smith said: “It felt unfair to me because I couldn’t have the bereavement damages. I felt they were saying: ‘you weren’t married, you weren’t bereaved, it didn’t count’. I wanted it to count.

“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.

“Nothing will bring John back, but he was a firm believer in everyone being treated equally and I think he would have agreed with me that this is worth fighting for.

“Just because John and I hadn’t said vows to each other and didn’t wear wedding rings didn’t mean we weren’t completely committed to each other. My fight has never been for the money, it’s about having meaningful relationships recognised.

“I just hope what has happened helps other people who may find themselves in this tragic situation.”

Alison GreenAlison Green
Head of Divorce and Family Group
Tel: 00 44 (0) 207 240 0521