Home Secretary Theresa May has decided to extend to police forces across England and Wales Clare’s Law – a scheme allowing police to disclose to individuals details of their partners’ abusive pasts.
It will be extended throughout the country from March 2014.
It follows a successful 14-month pilot in four police force areas, which provided more than 100 people with potentially life-saving information.
“Domestic abuse shatters lives – Clare’s Law provides people with the information they need to escape an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy,” Ms. May said. “The national scheme will ensure that more people can make informed decisions about their relationship and escape if necessary.”
The Home Secretary said the scheme was one of a raft of measures introduced by the government to keep women and girls safe. “The systems in place are working better but sadly there are still too many cases where vulnerable people are let down,” Ms. May said.
Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary. Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period.
The government has also announced the national extension of Domestic Violence Protection Orders from March 2014, which will provide further protection to vulnerable victims.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “This is further proof of the government’s determination to combat a crime that claims two lives every week.
“Allowing police to ban abusers from contacting victims provides immediate protection in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident and breathing space to a vulnerable person while they consider their next steps. The pilot has shown this is a powerful intervention which can save lives.”
Clare’s Law, or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme has two functions: ‘right to ask’ – this enables someone to ask the police about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts; and ‘right to know’ – police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances.
The Domestic Violence Protection Orders approach has two stages. Where the police have reasonable grounds for believing that a perpetrator has used or threatened violence towards the victim and the victim is at risk of future violent behaviour, they can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice on the spot, provided they have the authorisation of an officer at Superintendent rank.
The magistrates’ court must then hear the case for the Protection Order itself – which is the second step – within 48 hours of the Notice being made. If granted, the Order may last between a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days. This strikes the right balance between immediate protection for the victim and judicial oversight.