A LANCASHIRE woman is suing the Government for “symbolic recognition” of her bereavement after the death of her partner of 16 years.

NHS worker Jakki Smith, 58, claims her inability to claim bereavement damages is an unjustified interference with her right to private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, and unjustified discrimination under Article 14.


Ms Smith discovered she was not entitled to the sum, paid out if a person dies as a result of negligence, but only to spouses or civil partners, after retired prison governor John Bulloch, 66, died in October 2011 after an infection was missed.

The mother of one, of Chorley, who had been with Mr Bulloch since 1995 and lived with him for 11 years, says she has brought the case at London’s High Court to improve the rights of unmarried couples.

Her counsel, Vikram Sachdeva QC, told Mr Justice Edis on Wednesday that her claim for a declaration against the Secretary of State for Justice was not about money or a marginal boost to the family finances.

“It is symbolic recognition. It is about state recognition of the closeness of a relationship and the emotional loss suffered and we say that is plainly within the ambit of Article 8,” he said. He said that statute permitted a co-habitee of two years or more to recover dependency damages, but not to have the closeness of the relationship with the deceased recognised formally by the state, by means of a “token” sum.

Mr Sachdeva said that the legislature had set categories where it was likely that grief would be experienced and these had been criticised by law reformers as being too narrow.

The former Labour government agreed and published a draft bill which was going to remedy the problem in relation to co-habitees but, in 2011, the new coalition decided the bill was not a legislative priority.

David Blundell, for the Government, argues that Ms Smith’s claim is without merit and should be dismissed. He says that the limitation of the right to claim bereavement damages under the 1976 Fatal Accidents Act, which excludes unmarried partners of the deceased, does not engage Ms Smith’s Article Eight rights or come within the ambit of Article 14.