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Clare’s Law’: giving women the ‘right to ask’


Aisha Farooq
WVoN co-editor 

The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced this week that women will have the right to check out if their partner has a history of violence.

The scheme will be piloted in four areas of England and Wales.

Police forces in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Wiltshire will run a 12-month trial of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme from this summer.

Known as ‘Clare’s Law’, it follows a lengthy campaign by the father of Clare Wood, Michael Brown, after she was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in February 2009.

Wood had met Appleton via Facebook and was subjected to months of assault before he strangled her and set her on fire.

Officers knew of Appleton’s three previous convictions for harassment but current legislation prevented them from warning Wood, although she contacted the police for help.

Her father welcomed the introduction of the scheme, saying that had it been in place when his daughter was still alive she could have made an “educated decision” about Appleton.

May is confident that the pilot scheme will help reduce the number of domestic violence incidents in the UK, which currently result in two deaths per week of women at the hands of current or former partners.

“The government is committed to ensuring that the police and other agencies have the tools necessary to tackle domestic violence to bring offenders to justice and ensure victims have the support they need to rebuild their lives,” May said.

But the scheme has received a mixed reaction from workers in the domestic violence sector.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge (which provides support for abused women and children), wrote in the Guardian:

“It is another way for the government to sound tough on domestic violence while actually doing very little.”

Arguing that new laws are unnecessary, she said that the police need to “perform their basic duty” and improve their response rate to calls from victims.

Vivien Blackledge, head of Women’s Aid in Blackburn, however, welcomed the scheme saying that it would allow women to make ‘informed choices’.

  1. I’m a Women’s Aid worker and tend to agree with Sandra Horley.

    This new law is being implemented at the same time as lots of Women’s Aid groups are struggling due to a lack of funding.

    The group that I work for receives no statutory government funding whatsoever, and our future is very uncertain. I have to admit that listening to Teresa May wax lyrical about how ending violence towards women and girls is a government priority leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.

  2. Petra W says:

    Although this law might be a good idea, I don’t really think it is going to make much difference. I believe that a strong, well financed support structure and a no nonsense approach by police would make more difference. I have my doubts if a woman who experiences domestic violence will go to the police to make an inquiry into the history of her partner, especially as this is really too late to prevent damage.
    I think perhaps we should tackle violence right at the start, for example when we see children or teenagers rough way of treating each other. There should be a clear message that violence is never acceptable, not from men towards women, parents to children, children towards each other. And I think this should include that old, and in my opinion really stupid saying of “boys will be boys” which trivializes violence.

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