The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, is a scheme that allows individuals to ask police if their current partner has a history of domestic violence and abuse. This scheme has recently been piloted in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire and Gwent, beginning September 2012, and will now be expanded to cover all of England and Wales and is expected to take effect in March 2014.
Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood who was brutally strangled and set on fire by her ex-partner, George Appleton, in 2009. Clare met George through Facebook and was unaware of his alarming history of violence against women, including harassment, threats and kidnap at knifepoint. The scheme proposes to release, when requested, information such as this to make potential victims aware of the risks they may be facing and escape if necessary.
However, Calan DVS CEO Rhian Bowen-Davies, and other domestic violence charities such as Refuge and Women’s Aid, have expressed concerns about the expansion of Clare’s Law to a national level. There are fears that Clare’s law will only be minimally effective. Only 23% of domestic violence victims report their experiences to the police, meaning the shockingly large majority of offenders are not arrested, prosecuted or brought to the attention of the police at all. If a woman were to make an enquiry about such an individual, they would be told there are no convictions or history of violence and then may falsely believe themselves to be safe.
There is also the belief that the resources being spent on rolling out Clare’s Law may be of greater benefit elsewhere, such as supporting the services run by specialist organisations and improving the basic police response to victims of domestic violence. Refuge is calling for a public inquiry of police and other state agencies and their responses to domestic violence, Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says, “Clare's Law sounds good on paper, but in reality it will do very little to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence in this country. Refuge supports 3,000 women and children experiencing domestic violence on any given day. In many of these cases there has been evidence of shocking failure on the part of the police and other state agencies. Just last month, an inquest into the deaths of Rachael and Auden Slack found that Derbyshire Police made a number of failings that contributed to their tragic deaths.”
Domestic homicide cases that have evidence of police and state failure include that of Clare Wood. She had contacted the police to report Appleton’s abusive behaviour prior to her death, including one occasion where the response to her call was delayed 25 times due to shortage of police patrols. The Independent Police Complaints Commission reported ‘systematic failures’ and ‘a shocking lack of understanding about the nature of domestic violence’ by some officers of the Greater Manchester Police. Other instances of police failure are evidenced in the cases of Rachel and Auden Slack in 2010, as well as Maria Stubbings in 2008, Sabina Akhtar in 2008, Colette Lynch in 2005 and Casey Brittle in 2010.
If you would like to sign the petition calling for a public inquiry in to police and state agency response to domestic violence please click here.