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14 October 2022 | Podcasts | Article by Alun Jones

Clare’s Law: HJ Talks About Abuse

Clare's Law: HJ Talks About Abuse Clare's Law: HJ Talks About Abuse Clare's Law: HJ Talks About Abuse

The abuse team discuss Clare’s Law, officially known as The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS). The history of this comes after it was named after Clare Wood, a 36-year-old woman who was murdered in Salford, England in February 2009, by her ex-partner George Appleton.

Appleton strangled and burned Clare Woods and subsequently killed himself a few days after killing her. Although he was known to police, and had a known history of domestic violence, having seriously assaulted previous partners, Clare had no idea how violent he was.

Following Clare’s death, her father campaigned to bring about a legal means for police to warn potential victims about their partner’s history of abuse.

The DVDS, or Clare’s Law, was implemented across all police forces in England and Wales in March 2014.

What does this mean?

It means that anyone can ask the police about a partner. Also, a member of the public can ask about the partner of a close friend or family member. If the police decide to share the information, it will usually be with the person at risk.

However, that third party may not receive the information about the individual concerned – because it may be more appropriate for someone else to receive the information such as the potential victim or another person best placed to protect them

Sharon Bryan, from the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV), stated that even though the scheme is seven years old, very few people know exactly what it is or how to access it.

How can the request be made?

Applications can be made online, via police station visit, calling 101 or via the chat option on some police websites

The individual requesting the information needs to give their identity details and supporting ID. They will need to explain what prompted the request and nature of the relationship with the potential victim (if not themselves) and the person in question.

The police may need to follow up if the reason for the request was due to a crime, for example witnessing violence.

Initial checks are then made by the police. The process aims to be completed within 35 days. Other agencies are also checked such as prison services, probation services and social services.

There are two routes to make a request

Right to ask

If such information exists, the police consider whether this needs to be disclosed – if so, a face-to-face meeting will take place with the person requesting the information.

The meeting will then decide whether any disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect the person you are concerned about from the person they are in a relationship with. If they decide to disclose information, they will also decide who should receive the information disclosure and set up a safety plan tailored to the potential victim’s needs to provide them with help and support.

However, the individual being provided with the information must sign a document to say they will not disclose this. It is an offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 for a person to ‘knowingly or recklessly obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller’ which in this case is usually the police. Action may be taken against the individual if the information is disclosed without the police consent, and this could in result in civil or criminal proceedings.

Right to Know

You may receive disclosure even if you have not asked for it- because it puts you or others at harm of domestic violence if you are best placed to protect the potential victim.

Under the ‘Right to Know’ route, the police make an active decision to disclose information to a potential victim when they become aware of information about the past violent and abusive behaviour of a person and when they feel the disclosure of this information is lawful and necessary to protect the potential victim from a crime.

Information can only be disclosed if lawful and proportionate. This seemingly therefore is very much on a case-by-case basis of facts.

We should also point out this is different to Sarah’s Law which is the child sex offender disclosure scheme, sometimes called ‘Sarah’s Law’, allows parents, carers or guardians to formally ask the police for information about a person who has contact with their child, or a child close to them, if they’re concerned the person may pose a risk.

If you have been affected by the topics raised in this week’s podcast or would like more information, please get in touch with the Abuse team.

Author bio

Alan Collins is one of the best known and most experienced solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals.  Alan has represented interested parties before public inquiries including the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, and IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).

Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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