Petitioning Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May MP and 1 other

Introduce ‘Damien’s Law’ with new guidelines to ensure that more missing people are found


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Introduce new guidance to ensure that more missing people are found

Damien was 16yrs old when he went missing in Cowes, Isle of Wight on 2 November 1996. A missing person report was filed the following afternoon. Unfortunately, the police recorded his age incorrectly as 19yrs old, assessed him as low risk and his disappearance was therefore not taken seriously for several weeks. Throughout this time I attempted to explain that Damien’s absence was out of character and that he would not willfully be out of contact. However, I was portrayed as a ‘hysterical woman’ by officers because I was begging for assistance to find my son.

In the first few weeks after Damien went missing requests by the family for search teams, a helicopter and deployment of search dogs were all refused. In hindsight, if these actions had been taken, there would have been more chance to gather crucial evidence in the early days. Instead I am here 21 years later still looking for answers, with no explanation of what happened to my son. There are now no clear lines of enquiry due to the lack of evidence gathered in the critical days and weeks following Damien’s disappearance. A review in 2007 it was determined Damien was likely murdered, but without definite answers we remain in limbo as a family. I am unable to declare Damien dead and no further forward to knowing what happened to my son.

My situation is not unique. I am a Family Representative for Missing People since Damien went missing and retain a close unity with parents of other long-term missing children. The Missing People charity is all we have and the job is massive and the funds are short for one organisation to be able to sustain the needs of the magnitude of the issue.

Research by the charity Missing People suggests that, although few people who are missing will be found to have died, the risks are very real and those missing after a night out, in particular young males, are at particular risk, and a risk which increases the longer that they are missing. When someone is reported missing after a night out, it should be understood as an additional risk factor, and if combined with family assertions that the disappearance is out of character, the police should respond quickly and appropriately.

I, hereby, petition the Prime Minister Rt Hon Theresa May and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to acknowledge the distress and anguish suffered by families when the disappearance of a loved one is not properly responded to resulting in a long and painful wait. I also ask that the following recommendations are adopted:

  1. All cases involving those under 18 years of age should be assessed in accordance with the guidelines set out for the activation of Child Rescue Alert and an alert should be issued in appropriate circumstances. (Currently, responses vary across police forces.)
  2. The risks associated with missing after a night out should be acknowledged by the police and other professionals. The response to people missing in this situation should be reviewed.If a missing person is deemed medium or high risk, specialist search teams and equipment should be used in the early stages of the police investigation to secure evidence and increase the probability of finding the missing person alive.
  3. Consider funding for an independent Centre of Expertise in Missing Persons to unite professionals in assessment, specialist training, searches, investigation, family support, forensics, and horizon scanning for new developments – with a dedicated unit for long-term missing cases. This would ensure that all ‘missing cases’ get equal attention and adequate/fair funding.

I call upon you to support this petition to implement these recommendations and acknowledge the suffering that my family has endured throughout the 20 years of waiting for news of Damien. To prevent other families having to endure the same heartbreak it is vital that families are listened to, that effective risk assessments are made, and appropriate steps are taken in the search to find the missing person alive.

While my wish to find Damien’s remains, have convictions secured and justice delivered may not be realised, if these recommendations are considered I hope it will help other families who find themselves in the same unfortunate situation.

Damien Nettles Website:

Missing People Appeal:

Facebook Group:

Twitter: Damien's Law @DamiensLawUK1 #DamiensLaw #COEMP

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