Clare’s Law

8408114145_98722c7d1d_mMy day today has been somewhat steady. I decided to eat lunch at my desk at the Stowe Family Law office in Harrogate, during which I was scrolling through my twitter application on my phone and I noticed an interesting BBC News article entitled: Clare’s Law to cover all of England and Wales after pilot scheme. I had previously heard of the case of Clare Wood way back in 2009 whilst in my second year of my undergraduate degree. I vaguely remember watching the news report about the thirty six year old woman who was killed by her boyfriend, George Appleton, just 72 hours after the police released him. Since this fateful day Clare’s father has campaigned tirelessly to ensure that women receive more protection against domestic violence.

Domestic violence figures speak for themselves with on average two women a week being killed by their current or former partners, according to Womens Aid. Clare Wood was unaware of her partners history of violence against women and this, her father argues contributed to her death. The idea is that if women knew of their partners violent past prior to beginning a long term relationship with them many women would be saved.  The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme aims to enable individuals to check the police record of their partners past violent behaviour. In October 2011 The Home Secretary, Theresa May spoke to The Sun stating that: “This scheme would be based on recognised and consistent processes that could enable new partners of previously violent suspects to know more about their partner’s history of abuse… They could then make informed choices about how and whether they take that relationship forward.”

The Scheme has already been piloted across Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire and Gwent since September 2012. The Scheme is now to be extended across England and Wales, with the aim of it being in place by March 2014. Under the Scheme the police could take up to 5 weeks to disclose the requested information and the individuals requesting such information would be warned that repeating it to others could result in them committing an offence. According to the BBC report “the disclosure of people’s history of domestic violence can be triggered in two ways: 1. The 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; and 2. The Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances. A panel of police, probation services and other agencies will then check every request to ensure it is necessary before trained police officers and advisers would then provide support to victims.”

Whilst on the face of it this appears to be a great idea there are a number of individuals and organisations who oppose the move, most surprisingly Refuge, a charity which helps victims of domestic violence. Refuge claim that the Scheme could waste much needed police resources. Other critics claim that it could lead to malicious requests, could result in a waste of government money and an onus being placed upon women. We always hear the question ‘why didn’t she leave?’, with women now arguably having the knowledge of their partners past some organisations believe that ‘it’s going to be a way for agencies to absolve looking at themselves and blaming themselves and place that at the woman’s door.’ (Ingala Smith, Chief executive of domestic violence charity NIA, speaking to the Daily Telegraph).

Clare’s fathers only hope is ‘that at the very least there is going to be a substantial drop in the death figures.’

The following articles are of interest within this debate and are definitely worth a look:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25077115

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2513166/Women-right-check-police-records-new-boyfriends-violent-past-Clares-Law.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10473081/Clares-Law-is-it-just-a-sticking-plaster-on-a-far-more-serious-problem.html

Photo by BC Gov Photos via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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