This article looks at what Clare’s Law – the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) – means for victims of domestic abuse and how it can help them. It is applicable to male victims as well as female victims.
What is Clare’s Law?
In 2009, Clare Wood was murdered by a former partner. She had made several complaints to the police about him and was unaware of his violent background. After her death, Clare’s father launched a campaign to give people greater rights to find out about the violent past of partners. As a result, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – Clare’s Law – was introduced in 2014.
The Disclosure Scheme gives you the right to ask the police for information about whether your partner has a history of violence and domestic abuse that might pose a risk to you. Members of the public can also enquire about partners of close friends and family if they are concerned about someone’s welfare.
How can it help you?
Leaving an abusive relationship is an incredibly hard decision to make. Finding out if your partner has a history of violence and abuse may help you make an informed decision about whether to stay or leave. It will help you plan how to keep yourself safe, as well as your children and anyone else involved. It is also an opportunity to find out what support is available to you.
It may be that you are getting into a new relationship and alarm bells are ringing. Do you want to let this person into your home? If you have grounds for concern, then you can use Clare’s Law to find out if someone poses a risk to you. Again, it means you will be armed with information to guide your decision about what to do, plus support should you need it. Our article on 'How to spot the signs you are enduring Domestic Abuse highlights some of the typical forms of abusive behaviour
Victims of domestic abuse have said that they would have left their partners sooner if they’d known about their history of abuse. Tragically, two women are killed every week in England by their partner or ex-partner. Clare’s Law intends to equip victims with the information they need so that they don’t stay in a relationship until it is too late.
Does Clare’s Law protect you from your partner?
By itself, Clare’s Law does not offer you protection – only the information to make informed decisions for yourself.
However once you have this information there are services that you will be signposted to who can support you to take further steps to protect yourself. For example you may be able to obtain a non-molestation order.
How can you apply for disclosure under Clare’s Law?
To apply for disclosure, you can visit a police station in person, call 101 or speak to an officer on the street. Some police forces even let you complete an application online. Initially, you will need to provide your name, address and date of birth, plus details of what has prompted your enquiry. The police will ensure that there is a safe way to contact you without alerting your partner. If after running their initial risk assessment, the police believe you are at immediate risk and in need of protection from harm, they will act quickly.
After a face-to-face meeting and once the police have conducted a full risk assessment (this won’t be done whilst you are there and can take around a month), they will decide what, if any, information to disclose. That information will be disclosed to the person at risk, even if someone else has made the enquiry. This is always done in person and you won’t receive any written documentation detailing the enquiry. It’s the job of the police to keep you safe so they should also put you in touch with support services
Note: If when speaking to the police you mention something that could be a criminal offence (eg physical violence), then the police must investigate it as a crime and may decide to arrest your partner if they think it’s necessary.
Is it a failsafe way to find out about your partner’s history?
Sadly, the answer is no. Many cases of domestic violence, for whatever reason, go unreported by victims, therefore there may be nothing relevant on a person’s record for police to disclose or they might not be known to police at all.
Even if there is a history of abuse, if the police do not think there is a high enough risk to you, they won’t disclose the information. They can’t give information to anyone unless it’s completely necessary. However, even if no disclosure is made, if a partner’s behaviour is worrying, the police or another support agency will work with you to protect you and provide advice and support.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and feel you are at risk – regardless of what you have discovered about your partner’s history – you can contact Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline for advice and support. Our FREE confidential helpline is set up to support anyone who is impacted directly or indirectly by Domestic Abuse. Call 08 088 088 088 to speak to a local expert who can offer bespoke advice and signposting to support groups and the most appropriate agency support. Remember, if you are immediate risk, always phone 999.