Scheme allows women to check partners for history of violence

From March 2013, women in England and Wales will be able to contact the police for information if they fear their partner may have a history of abuse and domestic violence.

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2009. After she died it emerged that George Appleton had a violent past, including kidnapping a previous girlfriend at knifepoint.

Officially known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, the pilot ran from September 2012 in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham. Under the law, women can apply to the police for information on whether a partner has a history of domestic violence. A panel of professionals, including the police and probation services, check requests and can provide support if it is deemed necessary.

According to the domestic violence charity Refuge, two women a week are killed by current or former partners in England and Wales.

Clare Wood’s father is among campaigners who have welcomed the extension of the scheme, while others have voiced concern.

Domestic violence charity Refuge argues that the focus should be on improving police response to victims of domestic violence. They have called on the British government to open a public inquiry into the response of state agencies to the issue.

Sandra Horley chief executive of Refuge said: ‘Domestic violence is also chronically under-reported, with only 23% of victims reporting their experiences to the police. This means that the vast majority of perpetrators are never known to the police. If a woman inquires about her partner under the new disclosure scheme, she may be told that he has no history of violence, she may then believe that she is safe, but this does not necessarily mean that she will be safe – possibly quite the reverse.’