Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare's Law) launched in Britain

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A new British law allowing people to find out whether their partner has a domestic violence conviction was launched on International Women's Day (8 March).

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) was piloted over 14 months (July 2012 to September 2013) across four Police areas in the UK. It sought to introduce a consistent Police process to disclose information to an individual about previous offending by a partner. 

The pilot tested two processes:

  • The 'Right to Ask' - "where a disclosure request is triggered by a member of the public directly contacting Police about a partner"; and
  • The 'Right to Know' - "where a disclosure request is triggered by Police or partner agencies based on information an individual is at risk of harm from their partner".

Requests are subjected to Police checks and referred to a local multi-agency decision making forum which must justify a "pressing need for disclosure, and that a disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect the potential victim from future crime".

During the pilot period, 386 applications were made: 231 Right to Ask requests and 155 Right to Know requests. Of the total 386 requests, 111 (29%) of applications resulted in a disclosure. The majority of applications requested information about the previous history of a woman's male partner, commonly triggered by the behaviour of the partner. 

The evaluation found that overall, those involved in the pilot were positive about the disclosure scheme (police officers, partner agencies and applicants). The report says, “The scheme was perceived as a useful way of providing individuals with information to help them make a more informed choice about their relationship, and was seen to have encouraged multi-agency working around domestic abuse.” Practitioners highlighted the importance of having a safety plan in place following a disclosure and having a support worker attend a disclosure alongside the police, in order to give a potential victim immediate support. The report outlines issues experienced during the pilot and recommendations.

DVDS is also known as Clare's Law, named after 36 year old Clare Wood who was strangled and set alight in her home by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009. He had a history of violence against women, including kidnapping an ex-partner at knifepoint.

New Zealand does not have an equivalent law. Justice Minister Judith Collins said "If it's significantly better than our law changes or it [results in] an improvement in the safety of women and children, then I'd be very happy to look at it". Jill Proudfoot, Client Services Director at Shine, said the law would have a "significant impact" for those at risk. She said "If we had the opportunity available or if we could encourage them to ring the police and ask for that information knowing that they could get it, it would be excellent".

Media:

Clare's Law: 1,300 domestic abuse disclosures made, BBC News, 26.01.2015

Catriona MacLennan: Disclosure law could save women's lives, NZ Herald, 24.03.2014

UK law could prevent domestic violence in NZ, 3 News, 15.03.2014

Officials look at violence disclosure law, Dominion Post, 12.03.2014

'Clare's Law' introduced to tackle domestic violence, BBC News, 08.03.2014