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Looking at Clare’s Law

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domestic violence, clare's law, women's aid, refuge questions‘Clare’s Law’ allows people to check police records to see if a partner has a violent past.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced recently that the government would introduce the Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) Scheme and Domestic Violence Disclosure Orders (DVDs), otherwise known as Clare’s Law throughout England and Wales.

Clare’s Law allows people to check police records to see if a partner has a violent past.

The idea is to provide people with the information they need to escape an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy.

It was trialled in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire and Gwent for 12 months from September 2012, and is expected to take effect from March next year.

So, how does it work?

Anyone can use Clare’s Law; either someone who has become concerned about a partner’s abusive behaviour or a third party – a mother, father, friend – concerned for someone in a potentially dangerous relationship.

But the information isn’t handed out lightly. Requests go before the police and agencies ranging from social services to the Probation Service and the NSPCC, and information is only disclosed if there is believed to be an imminent risk of harm.

The person receiving the information is not to divulge it to anyone else. If they do, they can be prosecuted under the Data Protection Act.

And as well as information, the scheme offers police help – from changing locks to installing panic alarms.

So how will this work?

Say she calls, as Eva Wiseman wrote in the Guardian recently – say she phones the police and asks  if her boyfriend has ever been arrested for beating an ex.

They can tell her one of two things. They can tell her he has a record of violence, or they can tell her he hasn’t.

With ‘hasn’t’ meaning they have no reports of abuse. It does not mean ‘not abusive’.

Because you have to bear in mind that only 23 per cent of victims report incidents of domestic violence to the police.

And in the UK, as the Guardian reported recently, two women are killed a week as a result of domestic violence, but this is often  – as happened with Clare Wood – after failure on the part of the police.

Women’s Aid is urging police forces to put extra support in place for women seeking disclosures from the moment they do so, by for example offering to flag her number as a ‘high risk’ victim of domestic violence.

The charity is also urging that any women seeking a disclosure should also be provided with details of the National Domestic Violence Helpline – which is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge – and any local, specialist, domestic violence services.

It is also recommending the police monitor any incidences of violent behaviour by the partner.

But back to how ‘Clare’s Law will work.

Once she has found out, and she leaves, then what happens?

Given that women are most at risk just after leaving.

If short on family and friends, where can she go?

Call the police and ask either for help or for the women’s refuge number.

Talking about the police’s stand regarding domestic violence, Mark Barrow, Divisional Manager Cumbria and Lancashire for Victim Support, said:  “Never forget that it is a crime for someone you know to attack you in your own home or elsewhere – whether they are your partner, a family member or someone you share your home with.

“Whatever the abuser might say, violence like this is never your fault. Nobody has the right to abuse you in this way.

“You do not have to suffer in silence. You can contact [the police] in confidence and we can help you by talking with you, giving you emotional support and helping you to see and understand the choices that you can make to help stop the abuse.

“Whatever you chose to do, we know that your safety is the most important thing.

“The decision to take action against your abuser may be difficult. But if you do decide, at any time, that you want to report the abuse to the police, we can provide information and support. We can also support you if you choose to go to court.”

If you or a friend are in immediate danger, call 999.

If you need support, advice, are ready to leave or just want someone to talk to you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: Freephone 0808 2000 247.

  1. Vickiwharton says:

    Funny how the police have such a poor record on male violence against women and children then, even when the victim is a baby … There is a limit on how many times they can keep using the hackneyed old excuse of missed opportunities when covering up/ignoring/blaming child and female victims of male violence for their own abuse … As they do day after day. Institutional discrimination is written all over their ‘work’

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