Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law)
From 1st April 2014, the national Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is being rolled out to the Northumbria Police Force area.
The Scheme provides a framework for the police to disclose information about an individual’s history of domestic violence to a new partner. This follows a pilot in 4 police force areas which operated from September 2012 and provided more than 100 people with information about their partner’s violent past.
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, who had a record of violence against women.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is available to both females and males concerned that their partner might have a violent past which might put them at risk. The Scheme allows the police to disclose information about their partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts.
The scheme is only applicable to people who are in an intimate relationship. This is defined by Northumbria Police as “a relationship between two people which may be reasonably characterised as being physically and emotionally intimate”. It does not embrace the wider Home Office definition of domestic relationships in the domestic violence definition; however Northumbria Police have stated that this should not prevent any one concerned about the safety of another from asking for a disclosure to be considered.
Disclosure requests can be made in the following ways:
- Using the on line form on Northumbria Police website here
- In person at any police station
- By telephone to 101.
There are two processes for disclosing information:
- Right to Ask
- Right to Know.
Right to Ask
Any individual who is in a relationship has the right to ask about any history of violence in their partner’s past. The potentially violent partner will not be told that a disclosure request has been made.
A third party (e.g. IDVA, social worker, grow up children, grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, neighbours) who has concerns on someone’s behalf can also exercise the right to ask for information. However, a disclosure of information will only be made to the person best placed to safeguard the individual at risk of harm, (which in most cases will be the person at risk).
There is no upper or lower age limit on those who can apply for disclosure or be provided with information about a partner. The disclosure will always be provided to the person who is best placed to reduce risk; for example, a 15 year old can ask for a disclosure if they have concerns regarding a 17 year old boyfriend/girlfriend. A decision may result in the parents/guardians and the 15 year old being provided with relevant information to ensure they are effectively safeguarded.
After the police receive a request for a disclosure, a decision will be made, at Detective Inspector level through the Protecting Vulnerable People’s Unit (PVP) whether to disclose or not based on the information and intelligence on the police’s 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.
The Right to Know
Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, the police can make a professional judgement to proactively share information about an individual’s violent past with their current partner, if deemed necessary to safeguard them.
This ‘Right to Know’ will typically be triggered by the police as a result of a police investigation or because of information or intelligence received from partners, e.g. through MARAC. Again, a risk assessment will be carried out prior to any sharing of information with the partner of the identified violent person.
Disclosure and Non Disclosure Decisions
Every request under Clare's Law will be thoroughly 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 on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period. The police will also seek the support of specialist domestic violence services for the person receiving the disclosure.
The police will carry out a risk assessment prior to the sharing of information and other safeguarding processes will be put in place as appropriate, such as a Child Concern Notifications or Safeguarding Adults alerts.
The police will make the disclosure either face to face, or over the telephone using the safe contact method identified by the requestor when they made the request.
A non disclosure decision will be made when it has been identified that a disclosure will not prevent any further risk or harm, or if there is no information to share. However, a non disclosure decision does not preclude anyone from contacting the police if there are further concerns, nor does it preclude anyone from making future requests for disclosure. There is no limit to the number of disclosure requests that can be made about an individual.
The individual receiving the disclosure will be asked to undertake not to disclose this information to anyone else, unless such a disclosure is necessary to safeguard them, such as an IDVA providing them with support or another person living in their home.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) (Go Orders)
From March 2014, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) are being rolled out across England and Wales. This new power will enable police and magistrates’ courts to provide protection to victims in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident
The Domestic Violence Protection Orders approach has two stages:
- The first stage - where the police have reasonable grounds for believing that a perpetrator has used or threatened violence towards the victim and the victim is at risk of future violent behaviour, they can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice on the spot, provided they have the authorisation of an officer at Superintendent rank.
- The second stage - Magistrate's Court must then hear the case for the Protection Order itself within 48 hours of the Notice being made. If granted, the Order may last between a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days. This is intended to strike a balance between immediate protection for the victim and judicial oversight.