Clare’s Law: Empowering victims by giving them vital information
By Amy Mahoney, Cleveland Police IDVA Co-ordinator
I work as an IDVA Coordinator at Cleveland Police, and have an active role in the Clare’s Law scheme, making disclosures of domestic abuse.
At Cleveland Police, it’s fair to say we are dealing with an ever increasing number of reports regarding domestic abuse.
Seeing the levels of domestic abuse we are dealing with in Cleveland, and the vulnerability of the victims, I believe, that awareness raising is critical. And by doing this, and taking new approaches to tackling this often hidden crime, that we are sending a strong message to our communities that no one should have to live with domestic abuse and it will not be tolerated within our police force area.
We are committed to prioritising and tackling domestic abuse, and by actively promoting schemes like Clare’s Law, and other early intervention approaches, we hope to prevent any further victims from suffering at the hands of individuals we know to have a history of domestic abuse.
My role has allowed me to observe Clare’s Law in action, and I also actively participate in making decisions on when a disclosure is lawful. I’m involved in subsequently providing the disclosures to individuals, and giving them additional information on support and safety measures that they can access. It is vital that those at risk get this information.
Clare’s Law was named in memory of domestic abuse homicide victim Clare Wood, who was killed by her partner. After her death, it emerged that he had also committed violent offences against previous partners. Her father felt strongly that her death might have been preventable had she known about her partner’s previous convictions for domestic abuse. He campaigned for a change in the law to allow applications to be made to the police, so that vulnerable victims can request this vital information. In some cases, being made aware of previous abuse can save lives.
We are all very much aware that there is a bigger picture with domestic abuse. Often, a number of barriers can prevent a victim from seeking help and support. By being proactive with Clare’s Law disclosures along with support and advice, we can remove some of these barriers.
We can offer validation and reassurance about what they are experiencing, and we work together with our partner agencies to ensure more victims feel empowered to come forward, speak out and seek the appropriate advice and support to help safeguard themselves and their families.
The police can disclose to an individual details of their partner’s abusive past, enabling the individual to make an informed choice; to decide on next steps, whether they want to get advice and support, or access safety measures.
There are two parts to the scheme:
‘Right to ask’ - this enables someone to ask the police about a partner’s previous history of domestic abuse, and/or violent acts.
‘Right to know’ - police can proactively disclose information in approved circumstances.
In one particular case, an individual was provided with a disclosure under the ‘right to ask’ scheme, making her aware of the very serious physical and sexual risks posed by her new partner.
The disclosure enabled the individual to make an informed decision and take steps to protect herself as well as her children. The individual reported feeling empowered by having been fully informed of her partners abusive history and I was able to assist and advise around ending the relationship safely, providing advice around the legal options available and longer term support from partner agencies.
It was very clear from this case, had the individual not been made aware of the risks posed from her partner, that the relationship would have continued – and it was highly likely that the individual would have come to our attention as another victim subjected to a very serious level of abuse by her partner, who had a very concerning history of domestic abuse.
It is important to note that this scheme is confidential and only the person considered to be at risk would be made aware of any information, the abuser would under no circumstances ever be notified of the request!
If you have concerns about a partner or are concerned that a friend or family member is at risk because of their relationship, don’t put it off, you can request a Clare’s Law disclosure today by contacting the police on 101.
Posted on Wednesday 28th November 2018