Clare’s Law: what is the ‘Right-to-Ask’ and what does it mean for you? By guest blogger Lucy Phipps

Police car ‘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 Lucy PhippsUSE11  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

11 comments

Ethan - November 27, 2013 at 7:54pm

Do men have an automatic Right to Know of this invasion of their privacy?

Nick Langford - November 27, 2013 at 8:38pm

“Although you’d be hard-pressed to gather this from many media reports, Clare’s Law is not exclusively for women.” You’d be hard-pressed to gather it from the Home Office website, too, which refers only to domestic violence against women and girls. Ironic, in the week when the PASK project has conclusively demonstrated levels of DV which are comparable for both genders, and that most DV is reciprocal.

u6c00 - November 27, 2013 at 10:07pm

Your article says “Clare’s Law enable victims to check whether their partners have a history of domestic violence.”

Does the applicant have to be a victim of past domestic violence before they can check?

JamesB - November 27, 2013 at 10:13pm

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I assume it gives everyone, male or female the right to know about their partner, male or female and that is probably fair enough.

Can think some who wouldn’t be impressed by my record though – “What no GBH or manslaughter or at least wounding – pah! call yerself a man?” Joke.

Andrew - November 28, 2013 at 11:25am

It sounds good in theory, but the devil is in the detail.

Let’s assume that W is asking about M; it usually wil be.

First, M should be told that the question has been asked before it is answered. That will give him the chance to say that W is not contemplating setting up with him but is a spiteful ex who won’t let go and is trying to stop him starting up again with another partner; or a rival at work; or just a busybody.

It will also give him the chance to decide that if that is how much W trusts him there is no future in the relationship.

Second, it should only be W who can ask. Nobody on her behalf, with one exception and I will come back to that.

Third, the information should be limited to convictions. Not acquittals, allegations not pursued to trial, or “intelligence” which may be no more than gossip. Convictions after plea or trial. Nothing else.

Finally: if there are children other relations should be allowed to ask; and that includes their father. So if M1 and W break up and the children remain with W; W now meets M2 and shacks up with him; and M1 is or claims to be suspicious about M2’s attitudes to children, especially his; in such a case M1 should be entitled to check up on M2. Of course M1 may be quite wrong, or indeed a spiteful ex (see First above) – but he may be right. Or he may be a spiteful controlling ex who turns out by chance to be right about M2! In either event he should be allowed to use the information to launch civil or family proceedings to get M2 and his – M1’s – children out of each others’ lives, even if that means getting W out of the children’s lives too – children come first.

Anyone disagree?

Stitchedup - November 28, 2013 at 2:10pm

I agree with much of what Andrew has said but also take on board what Luke is implying. Many of you will know my story only too well by now, so I’m not going to bore you with details, I’ll get straight to the point.

Should convictions for breaking non-communication orders be included in Claire’s law, or any non-violent domestic related conviction for that matter???

Let’s not loose sight of the way non-mols are dished out like smarties in the civil courts and the harmless way in which non-communication orders can be broken resulting in a conviction eg. calling the ex to inform her you are going to be late picking up the kids.

If Claire’s law is to be rolled out all over the country we need to remove the power of arrest from non-mols secured in the civil courts where they are dished out routinely as a safe bet disguised as a “balance of probability” decision.

In my opinion, all convictions for breaking non-communication orders secured in the civil courts should be quashed. There’s simply no justification for a balance of probability decision to impose such a barbaric, draconian, controlling, restrictive order that asks a person to defy human nature.

So a man that has already lost everything now has no right to start a new relationship because he spoke to an ex??? B.S.

nothappy - July 7, 2014 at 12:32pm

Its all well and good that this law has been implemented as it keeps alot of people safe, however i have just received a call about an application against my partner, 2 days after I was sent harassing messages through social media sites that my partner is being unfaithful…It seems that someone is using this tool to be spiteful against me. I am 3 months pregnant and absolutely devastated with everything I’m being put through by some nasty piece of work who doesn’t like seeing me and my partner together. I just think these applications should be a choice of the partner because I requested the application to be cancelled as we are very happy together and I don’t have that right! Now I have to wait a week while the police investigate my partner and then I will be contacted with any history found. I do not want to be contacted it is down to me if I want to snoop into his history yet I just got told that by law they have to involve themselves should anything be found against him.

Stitchedup - November 28, 2013 at 2:53pm

I’ve just had a thought, why shouldn’t Claire’s Law be subject to CRB/DBS?? if a woman wants to check on you she should be open about this when you first meet, and have to officially inform you so that you can give your consent. If you consent fine, if you don’t she can walk. Easy.

In my case I would be tempted to consent but at least I would have the opportunity to show my prospective new partner the affidavit of my ex and my statement when relating to the non-mol and occupation order, and also my statement and the statement of my ex when I was convicted for breaching the non-mol by speaking. I’m confident that most well balanced women would come to the conclusion that it is all a load of B.S.. By the way, the victim statement my ex put together was described by the judge as “largely irrelevant” and he criticised the prosecution for allowing such a statement to be presented; a shame he hadn’t had the opportunity to experience her B.S before the trial. Unfortunately, he had already decided my guilt, even before the trial had started in my opinion.

Tristan - November 28, 2013 at 3:03pm

The police already have a pre-existing power under common law to make disclosures of this kind and so, no, there is absolutely no need for any statute-backed law to come in on top of that. Police have too much power as it is. They represent a particular threat to separated fathers because of their heavy-handed, insensitive ways and, yes, I do wear the T-shirt.

JamesB - November 28, 2013 at 6:29pm

Yes, I have a few of them t shirts Tristan, and agree with your post entirely.

claire - March 8, 2014 at 12:16pm

will a person who is already convicted & serving a prison sentence be put onto the register

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