Understanding the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme
The entitlement to be informed about your partner’s history of abuse or violence.
Clare’s Law, formally known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), is a policy enforced by law enforcement agencies that empowers individuals to learn whether their present or former partner has a documented history of violent or abusive conduct.
This initiative bears the name of Clare Wood, a tragic victim who lost her life at the hands of her abusive ex-boyfriend in 2009. It was officially implemented in England and Wales in 2014, catalysed by a significant campaign led by Clare’s father, Michael Brown.
Under Clare’s Law, you have the privilege to:
1. Lodge a formal request with the police for information pertaining to your current or former partner if you harbour concerns about their past abusive behaviour and believe they may pose a future threat to your safety.
2. Seek information from the police about the current or former partner of a close friend, neighbour, or family member if you suspect that they could be at risk of domestic abuse in the future.
This is commonly referred to as the “right to inquire.” You possess this right, regardless of whether your inquiry pertains to a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, provided you are 16 years of age or older. Moreover, you maintain this right irrespective of your own or the gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, or other characteristics of yourself, your neighbour, friend, or family member.
Additionally, you possess the “right to be informed.” This signifies that if police investigations reveal that your current or former partner has a documented history of violence or abuse, and there is a concern for your safety, the authorities may take the initiative to share this crucial information with you. If you harbour worries about past abusive or violent behaviour by your current or former partner, Clare’s Law was instituted to formally guarantee your right to acquire such knowledge.
Clare’s Law, officially recognized as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) in England, is a police-operated initiative that grants individuals, including members of the public, the formal right to request or receive typically confidential information concerning a romantic partner’s criminal history.
This can pertain to a current partner about whom you harbour concerns regarding past abusive behaviour or an ex-partner with whom you are no longer involved but believe may pose a threat to your safety.
You can submit a DVDS application if you perceive a personal risk of abuse or are concerned on behalf of a close friend or family member.
Clare’s Law encompasses two fundamental rights: the “right to ask” and the “right to know.”
1. The “right to ask” allows you to make a DVDS application to inquire about a current or ex-partner whom you suspect has a history of abusive or violent conduct. Any information shared by the police regarding a partner is termed “disclosure.”
You can also make this request on behalf of a close friend or relative whom you believe may be at risk from their current or former partner. However, disclosure may not always be provided, depending on your relationship to the individual involved. The police may opt to disclose directly to your loved one or to someone better equipped to ensure their safety.
2. The “right to know” signifies that if police investigations reveal a history of abusive behaviour by your current or ex-partner and a potential future risk, they may proactively share this information with you.
Clare’s Law stipulates that disclosures must adhere to the principles of being “lawful,” “proportionate,” and “necessary.” This means that the police must first determine whether it is appropriate to disclose your partner’s confidential records as part of your DVDS application. If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that you may be at risk, the police will collectively decide what information to disclose.
If you are applying for yourself, the police will typically provide disclosure directly to you, often in person. When applying on behalf of someone else, the disclosure may hinge on your relationship with that person and your ability to ensure their safety.
In cases where your partner is unknown to the police or there is no indication of a threat to your safety, the police will inform you accordingly. In such instances, they are not obliged to provide any disclosure to you or others.
Clare’s Law recognises various forms of domestic abuse, which extend beyond physical violence to include harassment, verbal abuse, stalking, psychological threats or manipulation, sexual assault, and violent behaviour. Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or disability.
Clare’s Law was established to prevent future domestic abuse, closing a legal loophole that allowed domestic abusers or individuals with prior records of violence or abuse to conceal their personal history. This lack of awareness put their partners at greater risk of future harm. The law is named after Clare Wood, who tragically lost her life due to this lack of information.
After a dedicated campaign led by Clare’s father, Michael Brown, the law underwent transformation, evolving from a policy into an official statute. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, receiving Royal Assent on April 29, 2021, marked a significant milestone by establishing Clare’s Law as a statutory right, removing it from police discretion. This Act also introduced the first government-defined statutory definition of “Domestic Abuse,” encompassing psychological and economic abuse in addition to physical violence.
Clare’s Law has expanded its reach to several countries worldwide since its inception in England and Wales in 2014. Scotland adopted its version in 2016, followed by Northern Ireland in 2018. Canada and Australia have also experimented with similar schemes based on the “right to ask” and “right to know” framework.
In Canada, as of March 2021, Ottawa, Ontario, introduced Clare’s Law, while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police started enforcing it in Saskatchewan and Alberta from April 2021. Newfoundland & Labrador implemented a version of Clare’s Law called the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act in November 2019.
New South Wales has introduced Clare’s Law, and it has undergone trials in South Australia. Additionally, Queensland and Victoria are deliberating the implementation of the Disclosure Scheme. Additional pages with general information would be valuable to provide a comprehensive understanding of Clare’s Law and its global impact.
Clare’s Law takes its name from Clare Wood, a 36-year-old woman residing in Yorkshire, tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009.
Their initial connection occurred on Facebook, where Clare was unaware of Appleton’s criminal history when they became acquainted. Their relationship spanned six months but took a coercive turn, prompting Clare to end it. Regrettably, Appleton refused to move on and subjected her to a relentless cycle of abusive conduct, including harassment, property damage, threats of violence, and attempted assault.
Despite Clare’s courageous decision to file a police statement and obtain a restraining order, Appleton’s abusive behaviour persisted without intervention. Tragically, it culminated in the loss of Clare’s life, followed by Appleton taking his own life shortly thereafter. Subsequent investigations uncovered Appleton’s history of violence and abuse, particularly towards women, a fact known to the Greater Manchester Police but not disclosed to Clare.
During this period, data protection laws created a legal loophole, enabling former abusers to keep their criminal records confidential. This gap in the law left potential targets like Clare without the means to inquire or seek information from the police about their partner’s history of abuse.
In the wake of Clare’s devastating death, her father, Michael Brown, embarked on a relentless campaign to challenge this legal deficiency. Michael firmly believed that Clare might have been spared if she had been aware of Appleton’s violent past. After five years of tireless advocacy, Michael succeeded in effecting a change in the law, allowing the police to both disclose and proactively inform individuals about their partners’ criminal records and relevant prior convictions. As a result, Clare’s Law was formally introduced in England and Wales in 2014 under the official designation of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS).
In summary, Clare’s Law was created through the determined efforts of Michael Brown, Clare Wood’s father, who tirelessly campaigned for legislative changes to empower individuals with information about their partners’ criminal histories, in memory of his daughter Clare.
Who Created Clare’s Law: Michael Brown, the Man and Father Behind Clare’s Law
Clare’s Law was established by Michael Brown in the aftermath of his daughter Clare’s tragic murder by her ex-boyfriend.
The inquiry into Clare’s untimely demise unearthed a disturbing fact: her ex-boyfriend possessed a history of violent conduct against women, information Clare was never privy to due to a loophole in the Data Protection Act.
Driven by the conviction that knowledge could have saved Clare’s life, Michael embarked on a passionate campaign as an advocate for other families who had endured similar losses. His vision was to institute a police disclosure scheme affording everyone the right to access a partner’s history of violence.
Michael’s tireless efforts paved the way for the implementation of Clare’s Law in the United Kingdom and overseas.
In 2014, he successfully championed the passage of Clare’s Law in England and Wales. Subsequently, it was extended to his birthplace, Scotland, in 2016, and Northern Ireland in 2018. Beyond UK borders, a version of Clare’s Law was also trialled in New South Wales, Australia, and the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.
Michael’s remarkable campaign earned him a slew of accolades, including the British Citizen Award in January 2020 and an Everyday Heroes Award in his hometown of Aberdeen in February 2020. He was further appointed as the patron of The Endeavour Project, a support group in Bolton dedicated to aiding families affected by domestic abuse.
Although Michael passed away in July 2020, his legacy endures. He posthumously received the 2020 She Inspires award in the ‘He For She’ category, honouring male advocates of gender equality. The She Inspires initiative also introduced the Michael Brown Agent Of Change award in his memory, recognizing those who, like him, have fought to rectify glaring injustices.
Michael’s lasting impact has garnered widespread recognition from the media:
– “His work has already saved hundreds of lives, and we believe his legacy will save thousands more.”
– “After the best part of a decade, Clare’s Law will finally become enshrined into law as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill.”
Here is a timeline of Michael’s campaign:
– The inquest into Clare’s murder exposes a loophole in the Data Protection Act preventing the police from sharing information about individuals with a history of violence or abuse.
– Michael collaborates with Manchester news reporter Michelle Livesey and contacts Hazel Blears, Labour MP for Salford.
– A nationwide poll published in ‘Fabulous’ magazine reveals that 91% of people would like to know if their partner had a history of domestic abuse, with 77% indicating they would end a relationship if this information were disclosed by the police.
– Michael launches the ‘Respect and Protect’ campaign (later renamed the ‘Clare’s Law Campaign’) with the parliamentary support of Hazel Blears and other MPs, including former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
– Michael and Hazel Blears meet with the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, who announces the launch of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme consultation.
– Michael’s petition for Clare’s Law garners over 1,000 signatures, which he delivers to Downing Street alongside Michelle Livesey and Hazel Blears, attracting significant media attention.
– The Home Office announces a Clare’s Law pilot scheme by police forces in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire, and Gwent.
– Clare’s Law is subsequently rolled out to all police forces in England and Wales.
– Michael calls for a similar scheme to be introduced in his birthplace of Scotland, meeting with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at Holyrood.
– A pilot of Clare’s Law is initiated in Ayrshire and Michael’s hometown of Aberdeen.
– Clare’s Law is officially implemented in Scotland, known as the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland (DSDAS).
– Michael participates in numerous TV and radio interviews, including GMTV and The One Show, and delivers speeches at various women’s refuges.
– Several documentaries, such as “The Crime that Shook Britain,” “Deadly Dates,” and “Swipe Right for Murder,” feature Clare’s story.
– Teen magazines, local publications, and national news outlets all cover Clare’s story to raise awareness of the potential dangers of dating through social media.
– Clare’s Law informs a storyline on the television show Coronation Street involving characters Geoff Metcalfe and Yasmeen Nazir.
Clare’s Law grants you the right to inquire about the background of your husband, boyfriend, or partner. Whether you are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, if you have concerns that your current or former partner has a history of violence, Clare’s Law entitles you to seek information.
You can submit an application to the police either for yourself or on behalf of someone else, such as a friend, relative, or neighbour, whom you believe is at risk. Anyone can apply, regardless of race, gender identity, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, religion, or any other characteristic.
Clare’s Law serves as a tool to prevent all forms of domestic abuse, not just physical violence. Domestic abuse can manifest in various ways, and there are numerous indicators or warning signs that a partner may have a history of abuse or could potentially become abusive in the future.
These indicators may include:
– Inflicting physical, sexual, or psychological harm.
– Isolating you from friends, family, or colleagues.
– Exerting control over your phone, finances, or internet access.
– Making explicit or implied threats against you.
– Causing damage to your property or belongings.
– Engaging in stalking or harassment, including making unwanted or malicious calls and sending nasty or abusive messages.
If any of these circumstances apply to you, or if your partner makes you feel unsafe for any other reason, you have the right to inquire about their background under Clare’s Law.
The process for making a Clare’s Law application depends on your place of residence:
– Apply here if you live in England or Wales.
– Apply here if you live in Scotland.
– Apply here if you live in Northern Ireland.
– If you reside elsewhere, search for “Clare’s Law” followed by your country’s name. Versions of the scheme currently exist in New South Wales (Australia) and Saskatchewan (Canada).
If you discover that your partner has a history of abuse, it’s essential to understand that Clare’s Law is designed to inform you about your partner’s past. If there is sufficient cause to believe that you may be at risk, the police will collectively decide what information to disclose to you. You can then decide on your next steps independently or with their assistance.
In cases of immediate danger, please dial 999 to contact the police. If it is too risky to speak, the operator will prompt you to make an audible sound like coughing to signal your need for police assistance. If you are unable to make any sound, the call will be directed to an automated system that instructs the caller to press 55 if they are in danger. If 55 is not received, the police will not be dispatched.
What you must do
If you have met a new partner and you have any reason to question their past, do not hesitate, search for:
Domestic violence disclosure scheme application and contact your nearest police authority.