Clare’s Law is a scheme that allows people to ask the police whether their partner has a history of domestic violence. Since September 2012 the scheme has been trialled by four police forces: Gwent, Wiltshire, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire. It has now been announced that the scheme will roll out across all of England and Wales in March 2014.
Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009. George Appleton had a history of violence against women, including harassment and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one his ex-girlfriends, a fact of which Clare was unaware.
Clare’s Law has two functions:
- Right to ask – this allows someone to ask the police about a partner’s previous history of acts of domestic violence; and
- Right to know – the police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “These new measures that the Government has been piloting will help us to be able to support victims more, to deal with perpetrators and to constantly try to stop this terrible crime of domestic violence that takes place all too often”.
As family lawyers, unfortunately we see the issue of domestic violence all too often. That said, there are a number of legal routes that a victim of domestic violence can take to protect themselves and any children. The two main remedies are non-molestation orders and occupation orders. Non-molestation orders prohibit someone from using or threatening violence amongst other things. Occupation orders regulate who can live in the family home, and can even restrict an abuser from entering the surrounding area. We often apply to the court for these orders in tandem, in order to provide our clients with the utmost protection.
Although the roll out of Clare’s Law is clearly a step in the right direction in terms of preventing incidents of domestic violence, it does not solve the problem. Much will depend upon how the police deal with allegations of domestic violence. If someone is concerned enough to go to the police to ask about a partner’s history, it is likely that she is already seriously worried. The government cannot and should not rest on its laurels now and think that the work is done. It is heartening, however, that at least the issue is on the agenda and has the public’s attention.