UK Politics

Clare's Law to cover all of England and Wales after pilot scheme

  • 25 November 2013
  • From the section UK Politics
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Clare Wood
Clare Wood met her ex-partner on Facebook and was unaware of his criminal record

Clare's Law, which enables people to check the police record of their partners, is to be expanded to cover all of England and Wales.

It has been piloted in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire and Gwent since September 2012.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her Salford home in February 2009.

She was unaware of his history of violence against women.

The law is expected to take effect across England and Wales in March.

Clare Wood's father, Michael Brown, has welcomed plans to roll out the scheme, officially known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, saying the scheme "could, quite possibly, have saved her life".

'Escape if necessary'

During the pilot of Clare's Law there were 111 disclosures in the four police areas involved.

Home Secretary Theresa May, has issued a written statement to the House of Commons. She says that there "are still too many cases where vulnerable people are let down".

"Clare's Law provides people with the information they need to escape an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy," she said.

"The national scheme will ensure that more people can make informed decisions about their relationship and escape if necessary.

"This is an important step towards ensuring we do better by women like Clare Wood in the future."

Ms May said 88 women were killed by their partners last year.

'Right-to-Ask'

The disclosure of people's history of domestic violence can be triggered in two ways:

  • Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police forces in England and Wales for information on a partner's history of domestic violence
  • Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances

A panel of police, probation services and other agencies will check every request to ensure it is necessary before trained police officers and advisers would then provide support to victims.

Extremely dangerous

Refuge, a charity which helps victims of domestic violence, is opposed to the rollout of Clare's Law. They are calling for the government to open a public inquiry into the response of police to domestic violence.

The charity's chief executive, Sandra Horley, says: "Clare's Law may help a few individuals - but domestic violence is a huge social issue with a massive death toll. We need to help the majority of victims - not the few. Let's get our priorities right."

She also says that leaving a violent partner can be extremely dangerous: "women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner".

But chief executive of the charity Victim Support Javed Khan welcomed the plans.

"Early identification to stop domestic violence is crucial," he said.

He also said that it is important to give people the "support they need both before and after a disclosure has been made, so they can make an informed choice about what to do next".

New Domestic Violence Protection Orders are also being rolled out across England and Wales from next March.

These can be issued by a police officer at superintendent rank where they have reasonable grounds to believe a victim is at risk of future violent behaviour. The case for the protection order would have to be heard in a magistrates' court within 48 hours.

A Scottish government spokesperson said domestic abuse was taken very seriously and that: "We will follow the rollout of this pilot across England and Wales with interest, in particular the evaluation, and consider the role that this initiative can play in Scotland."

Police Scotland said tackling domestic abuse was a high priority and that their officers "regularly liaise with colleagues across forces in England and Wales and exchange information readily and as requested".

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Justice said there were no plans to introduce their own version of Clare's Law. "Such proposals would require local consultation and development."

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