The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme known as Clare's Law, is an initiative named after 36 year old Clare Wood who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2009. Her Father has campaigned tirelessly for the introduction of this law which aims to provide people with information about their partner with the aim to protect people from being victims of domestic violence. One aim is that if a person learns that their partner has a history of domestic violence, they may either not enter into or end that relationship thus protecting them from potential violence. The scheme has been in place since 8 March 2014 and guidance on the scheme can be found here. Under Clare’s Law, an individual has the right to ask the police whether a current partner represents a risk of violence. Concerned third parties, such as parents, friends etc can also apply but it may be that the information obtained is disclosed to the person at risk, rather than the third party. If the police have information that may impact on the safety of the victim, they can disclose the information to the victim and/or a person who is best placed to protect the victim. Prior to the release of any information, the police will meet with any safeguarding agencies to consider whether the disclosure is legal, necessary and proportionate. The disclosure should have enough information to enable the potential victim to make an informed decision about their relationship.The scheme has been hailed as very significant and it is hoped it will help. However, there are concerns that often victims of abuse do not report them and/or are not convicted. Therefore people who use the scheme and are told there is no history of abuse may be left with a false sense of security. The scheme also does not tackle the root cause of the violence and whilst it may protect one individual who requests the information, it may not protect that person’s next partner who does not make the request.
In the Children and Families Act 2014 and the associated Practice Direction which has just come into force in family law, domestic violence has been defined broadly and not only includes a definition of the term domestic violence but also includes definitions of controlling and coercive behaviour.
The police are of course the first agency to contact if you are the victim of domestic abuse but action can also be taken from a family law perspective by obtaining a non-molestation order. A non-molestation order prohibits the perpetrator from, for example, contacting the victim, attending within a certain radius of their property etc. It has a power of arrest attached to it and therefore if the perpetrator breaches the same, the police can be called and will immediately arrest the perpetrator. A non-molestation order is not suitable if there are already bail conditions as it would be a duplication but they can help to protect a victim who does not have such safeguards. A non-molestation order can also last for a number of years.
A DVDS timeframe is normally 14-35 days, but after a risk assessment by the police and/or referral to a multi agency forum action to safeguard may be carried out sooner if deemed necessary and justified.
Please note: The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme doesn't replace Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, subject access or freedom of information (FOI) requests and the new Disclosure and Barring Service.
Detailed guidance on Clare's law can be found here.