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The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare's Law, is named after Clare Wood who was murdered in 2009 by her former partner George Appleton. He had a history of violence against women.
Clare's Law was recently introduced in Merseyside, after a trial in 2012, in four other police force areas. The police can decide if a potential victim has a right to know about their partner's violent past.
The scheme is available to anybody worried that their partner might have a violent past which might put them at risk. Disclosure requests can be made in person at any police station or by telephone to 101.
There are two ways for disclosing information:
Right to Ask
Anybody in an intimate relationship can ask about their partners violent past. The other partner will not be told.
Somebody else, (e.g. social worker, grown up children, grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, neighbour) who is worried about domestic violence can also ask for information, but usually the police will only share the information with the person at risk of harm.
Anybody of any age can ask for information about a partner, but the police will tell the person who is best placed to reduce the risk, (e.g. a 15 year old can ask for information if they are worried about a 17 year old boyfriend/girlfriend. The police may decide to tell the parents/guardians, as well as the 15 year old to make sure they are kept safe).
After being asked for a information, the police will decide whether or not to share any history based on the evidence provided and what is held on the police system. A risk assessment will also be carried out prior to any information being shared.
Checks can be made both nationally and internationally if there is information that the potential perpetrator lived outside of the police force area at any time.
Right to Know
Under the scheme, the police can decide if somebody should be told about their partner's violent past, without being asked. This is to keep the person safe.
This will happen if the couple come to the attention to the police for any reason, perhaps via other agencies working with them.
Again, a risk assessment will be carried out before any infomation is shared.
Each request for information will be checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary. Trained police officers and advisers will then be there to support victims through the hard and sometimes dangerous time that comes afterwards. The police will also ask for help to be put in from special domestic violence services.
The police will carry out a risk assessment prior to the sharing of information and make sure the people involved are kept safe, like children or vulnerable adults.
The police will tell the person face to face, or over the telephone, whichever they asked for at the start.
A 'non disclosure' decision will be made, when the panel decide there is no further risk of harm or there is no information to share. There is no limit to how many times a disclosure request can be made, especially if something else happens that causes concerns.
If somebody is told information about a partner with a history of violence, they will be told not to tell anybody else unless they are helping to keep them safe. Like a social worker or another person living in their home.
In May 2014, Merseyside Police started to use Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs), to help protect victims after domestic violence has happened. They are sometimes called Go Orders.
DVPOs have 2 stages:
Stage 1. When the police have reasonable grounds to believe that somebody has used or threatened violence towards somebody else and the victim is at risk of more violence. They can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN).
Stage 2. The case will be heard in magistrates court within 2-days of the DVPN being issued. If granted by the court the DVPO can last between 14-days and 28-days, depending on what the court think is fair.