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'Clare's Law' gives new rights over domestic violence

Category: England

Published: 5th Mar 2012 08:28:47

People in some parts of England and Wales will soon be able to find out from police if their partners have a history of domestic violence.

The Home Office is expected to announce trials giving a "right to ask" for information in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Gwent.

The scheme is dubbed Clare's Law, after a woman murdered by a former partner.

But domestic violence campaign group Refuge has attacked the scheme, saying it will do little to protect victims.

Clare Wood, from Salford, Greater Manchester, was murdered in 2009 by a former boyfriend with a violent background.

The 36-year-old mother had made several complaints to the police about George Appleton, whom she had met on the internet, before he killed her. He was later found hanged.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission criticised Greater Manchester Police for individual and systemic failings in the case.

Since her death, Miss Wood's father Michael Brown has campaigned for people to have greater rights to know about the violent past of partners.

The Home Office ran a consultation on the issue last year and said it could leave the situation unchanged, create a right to ask, or a stronger right to know.

The new disclosure scheme simply isn't supported by any of us with the expertise to judge its chances of success.”

Ministers are expected to back the middle way, creating an arrangement similar to the right to ask whether someone who has access to your children has a history of sex offending.

The police already have common law powers to provide information about someone's background if officers think there is a pressing need to do so to prevent a crime.

But Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said the Home Office should start by improving how police respond to calls for help.

"We are at an absolute loss as to why the government is introducing the new disclosure scheme," she said.

"The new disclosure scheme simply isn't supported by any of us with the expertise to judge its chances of success."

Ms Horley said the majority of abusers were not known to the police and it was completely unclear whether the scheme would benefit anyone.

Michael Brown has been campaigning for a change in the law since his daughter, Clare, was killed.

She added: "It is an absolute tragedy that Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-partner, but it is highly unlikely that she died because the police didn't inform her about her ex-partner's previous conviction.

"It is more likely she died because the police did not respond to her emergency 999 call for help."

The child sex offender disclosure scheme, the basis for the proposed Clare's Law, is now in place across all police forces in England and Wales, and was the result of a long-running campaign by Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered by a known paedophile.

During the scheme's pilot in four police areas, 315 applications were made which uncovered 21 cases where a potentially dangerous person did have access to an applicant's child.

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BBC News, 2012. 'Clare's Law' gives new rights over domestic violence [Online] (Updated 5th Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1415552/Clares-Law-gives-new-rights-over-domestic-violence [Accessed 23rd Apr 2014]

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