Police introduce family violence disclosure scheme

Image: iStock

New Zealand Police have introduced a Family Violence Information Disclosure Scheme (FVIDS). This is based on a UK initiative known as Clare’s Law, which allows a person (or concerned family or friends) to request information from Police as to whether their partner has a family violence history.

New Zealand Police state: "Any person can make enquiries about a person they are in a relationship with if they have concerns about their safety. Any concerned third party, such as a parent or friend can make an application however; they would not necessarily receive the information about the individual concerned. It may be more appropriate to provide the information to the partner or another person who is best placed to protect the potential victim."

Police will consider disclosure on a case-by-case basis and only after applying a legal test to ensure it is lawful. Disclosure must be within 20 days of application but where there is a serious threat to a partner and/or their children, an urgent disclosure can be made within 24 hours. Superintendent Tusha Penny, National Manager Prevention, said "The Official Information and Privacy Acts already enable police to disclose such information. FVIDS is about improving the quality of service we provide to potential victims. ... Information sharing is an issue that our staff grapple with daily. This system supports our staff to potentially save lives."

Requests can be made in person at a police station or by telephoning or emailing police. Further information is available on the New Zealand Police website.

Clare's Law - UK experience

The UK disclosure scheme was dubbed 'Clare's Law' after 36 year old Clare Wood, who was murdered 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, which Clare was unaware of. The scheme was launched in 2014 after a 14 month pilot.

The assessment of the pilot found that overall, those involved in the pilot were positive about the disclosure scheme (police officers, partner agencies and applicants). The report says,

  • "Overall, those involved in the pilot were positive about the disclosure scheme (police officers, partner agencies and applicants). The scheme was perceived as a useful way of providing individuals with information to help them make a more informed choice about 4 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. Respondents involved in the research who received a disclosure with a support worker present found this useful. Practitioners felt it was essential that there was sufficient support service coverage in place if the scheme was rolled-out.
  • Overall, almost all respondents involved in the research were satisfied with their experience of the scheme. The majority of respondents who had received a disclosure felt that the information had helped them to make a more informed choice about their relationship. Most stated they would keep a closer eye out for warning signs of domestic abuse in their relationship following the disclosure."

The report outlines issues experienced during the pilot and recommendations.

In January 2015, the BBC reported there had been more than 3760 applications under the law in less than a year of operation, which resulted in 1335 disclosures.

Update

On 1 February 2016, Police Minister Judith Collins reported that the new Police Family Violence Information Disclosure Scheme (FVIDS) had been used 14 times since it was launched in December 2015.

"Police have advised me that the disclosure scheme has already provided people with the information they need to leave potentially dangerous situations," Ms Collins said. "People have the right to know about a partner or potential partner’s violent past." 

Media

Police family violence disclosure scheme helping victims, Press release: NZ Government, 06.07.2016

Two seek family violence information, Otago Daily Times, 20.04.2016

Violence disclosure scheme praised, Manawatu Standard, 07.02.2016 

New police disclosure scheme helping potential victims, Beehive: Judith Collins, 01.02.2016

Protective measure welcomed, Otago Daily Times, 19.12.2015

Disclosure scheme to increase safety of family violence victims, Beehive, 17.12.2015

Find out your partner's history of abuse, NZ Herald, 17.12.2015

Government announces new disclosure scheme to alert people to a partner's violent criminal past, Stuff, 17.12.2015

Govt launches scheme to tackle family violence, 3 News, 17.12.2015

New scheme for disclosing a partner's criminal past, Radio NZ, 17.12.2015

New Police powers to disclose violent histories, NewsTalk ZB, 17.12.2015

Convictions released under new domestic violence scheme, 3 News, 17.12.2015