THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed a new law which can help the families of missing people.

The Missing Persons And Presumption Of Death Act comes into effect today, and gives families the ability to deal with the affairs of loved ones who have been missing for extended periods of time.

The introduction of the new act means families of people who have been missing for seven years or more can go to a solicitor who is then able to carry out a procedure and make an application for to the High Court and if the judge is satisfied, a certificate of presumption of death can be issued.

Peter Lawrence, whose daughter Claudia went missing in 2009, has worked with charities and politicians to help introduce the act.

He said: "The Government says there are about 30 or 40 families queuing up for this and there will be a few families each year that will be absolutely relieved to know that's what they can do.

"It is not something which we personally want or can do anything with at the moment, but I have been campaigning because of my connection with Missing People charity and various couples I have met through that who have desperately wanted it because the law at the moment is totally unfathomable. There is no one single procedure people can go through to get a certificate of death and noone has yet found a solicitor who can advise people because they don't know either."