Clare’s Law: what is the ‘Right-to-Ask’ and what does it mean for you? By guest blogger Lucy Phipps
November 27, 2013 12 comments
‘Clare’s Law’, a disclosure scheme aimed at protecting victims of domestic abuse, is set to be rolled out across England and Wales in the spring following a successful trial.
Clare’s Law enable victims to check whether their partners have a history of domestic violence. Family members and some others may also be able to apply.
Police will run appropriate checks, gathering information from other agencies such as Social Services and the Probation Service and disclose such information as is considered ‘lawful and proportionate’ to whoever is best placed to help the victim.
Police made 111 disclosures during the pilot scheme.
Officially named the ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’, its more press-friendly moniker commemorates Clare Wood, who was murdered by her violent ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her Salford home in February 2009.
Clare met Appleton online and was unaware of his history of violence against women when they began a relationship. He was known to the police but sadly little was done to warn or protect his new partner. Clare’s family has since been instrumental in campaigning for a change in the law to support victims of actual and potential abuse.
The disclosure of people’s histories of domestic violence can be triggered in two ways:
*Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police forces in England and Wales for information on a partner’s history of domestic violence. They will then be able to make an informed decision about whether to continue the relationship and whether to seek support.
*Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in certain circumstances to victims or third parties in a position to help.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be a very difficult decision to make and can seem so daunting that many victims choose to stay. But there is help and support available.
Seeking legal advice can often be a good starting point as your solicitor will be able to advise you of your rights under the Family Law Act 1996 and tell you whether you could get an emergency injunction. The legal definition of ‘domestic abuse’ has been extended and now includes any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, be it physical, sexual, psychological, financial or emotional. All forms of abuse are taken equally seriously by the courts of England of Wales.
There are two different types of injunctions available: non-molestation orders and occupation orders and these can be prepared to meet your individual needs. They can include a number of different restrictions, such as preventing your partner from contacting you or attending at your property. They can also, in some circumstances, exclude them from a home that you share.
Your solicitor will also be best placed to refer you to local support networks that can offer guidance and care for you and your family to ensure that you are adequately protected.
It is also worth noting that legal aid is still available to victims of domestic abuse.
Although you’d be hard-pressed to gather this from many media reports, Clare’s Law is not exclusively for women.
Every thirty minutes the police receive a call regarding domestic abuse and the Home Secretary recently revealed that 88 women were killed by their partners in the last reported year. But domestic violence is not targeted solely at women. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that in the year 2011/2012 800,000 males reported domestic abuse, compared to 1.2 million females. Thirty-one per cent of women and 18 per cent of men had experienced abuse since the age of 16, the ONS reported. So it is important that both men and women benefit from Clare’s Law.
Having graduated from Lancaster University with a triple major honours degree in History, Politics and Philosophy, Lucy moved on to obtain the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at BBP Law School in Leeds. She received a distinction in family law and qualified as a solicitor at an award winning niche family law firm.
Lucy joins the firm from a multi-office practice having been recruited to build and develop their family law department. In doing so, Lucy has built up a local, national and international client base representing clients at County Court level and also in reported cases at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Originally from Nottingham, Lucy is a loyal supporter or her home football team, Nottingham Forest and combines her love of travelling with a passion for motorcycle racing.
Photo by ell brown via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence