Skip to content

Vote for Antony Antoniou

Antony Antoniou – Reform UK Northampton North
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
(PPC) 2024 General Election

reform-rosette
Claire's law is an essential tool for protecting women from violence

Claire’s law is an essential tool for protecting women from violence

The right to know if your partner has an abusive past.

Clare’s Law, also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is a police policy giving people the right to know if their current or ex-partner has any previous history of violence or abuse.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her abusive ex-boyfriend in 2009. It was formally rolled out in England and Wales in 2014, following the landmark campaign led by Clare’s father Michael Brown.

Under Clare’s Law, you have the right to:

-Make an application to the police requesting information about your current or ex-partner, because you are worried they may have been abusive in the past and believe they may pose a risk to you in future.

-Request information from the police about the current or ex-partner of a close friend, neighbour or family member, because you are concerned that they might be at risk of domestic abuse in future.

This is called the ‘right to ask.’ You have a right to ask the police no matter if your enquiry relates to a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, as long as you are aged 16 or older. You also have the right to ask about a partner regardless of your (or your neighbour, friend or family member’s) gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion or other characteristics.

You also have the ‘right to know’. This means that if police checks show that your current or ex-partner has a record of violent or abusive behaviour, and they believe you may be at risk, they may decide to proactively share that information with you. If you’re worried that your current or former partner has been abusive or violent in the past, Clare’s Law was created to formally give you the right to find out.

What is Claire’s law?

Clare’s Law is formally known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) in England

 DVDS is a police-run scheme that lets you, or any member of the public formally request or receive usually confidential information about a romantic partner’s criminal history.

This might be a current partner who you are worried might have been abusive in the past. It can also be an ex-partner you are no longer involved with but believe may be a threat to your safety.

You can make a DVDS application if you believe you are personally at risk of abuse, or are concerned on behalf of a close friend or relative.

Under Clare’s Law you have two rights: to ask, and to know

1- The ‘right to ask’ means that you can make a DVDS application to ask about a current or ex-partner that you think might have a record of abusive behaviour or violence. Any information that the police share with you about a partner is called ‘disclosure’.

You can also ask on behalf of a close friend or relative, who you think might be at risk from their current or former partner. However, you may not necessarily receive any disclosure depending on who you are. The police may decide it is more appropriate to share with your loved one directly, or with someone who is more able to protect their safety.

2- The ‘right to know’ means that if police checks show that your current or ex-partner has a history of abusive behaviour, they may proactively share that information with you because they believe you are at future risk.

Clare’s Law disclosures have to be considered ‘lawful’, ‘proportionate’ and ‘necessary’

This means that police must first decide whether it is appropriate to disclose your partner’s confidential records as part of your DVDS application. If there is enough to suggest that you may be at risk, then the police will make a collective decision on what information to disclose to you.

If you are applying on your own behalf, then the police will disclose any information directly to you – usually in person. If you’re applying on behalf of someone else, any disclosure is likely to depend on your relationship to that person and your ability to keep them safe.

Should your partner not be known to the police, or if police checks suggest that there isn’t a threat to your safety then the police will tell you so. In this case, they are not required to share any disclosure with you or anyone else.

Clare’s Law disclosures take into account different definitions of domestic abuse

Abuse isn’t only limited to physical abuse. It can also include harassment, verbal abuse, stalking, psychological threats or manipulation , sexual assault and violent behaviour. Anyone can experience domestic abuse regardless of age, race, ethnic or religious backgrounds, sexuality, class or disability.

Domestic Abuse can be defined as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour – including sexual and physical violence. With continued changes to the law Domestic Abuse can include:
-psychological and or emotional abuse
-physical and sexual abuse
-financial or economic abuse
-harassment and stalking
-and also online or digital abuse.

Police will normally take these different definitions of abuse into account when considering what information to disclose as part of a DVDS application.

Clare’s Law was created to help prevent future domestic abuse

A former legal loophole made it possible for domestic abusers or people with a prior record of violent or abusive behaviour to conceal their personal records. This meant that their partners were more likely to remain unaware of past offences, and so at greater risk of future harm. Clare Wood, who the law is named after, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend due to this lack of knowledge.

After a lengthy campaign, Clare’s father Michael Brown was finally able to get this law changed. Now any member of the public has the right to ask the police about the criminal history of a partner they believe might be putting their own safety, or the safety of someone they know, at risk.

Clare’s Law changed from a policy to a law

Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent on 29th April 2021.The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has been described as the most comprehensive package ever and focuses on bringing the issue of Domestic Abuse to the forefront of society. The Act includes the first statutory government definition of “Domestic Abuse” which goes beyond physical violence and includes psychological and economic abuse. The Act allows Clare’s Law a statutory footing, meaning that victims have a legal right to check out the offending history of their partner, and this is no longer at the police discretion.

Clare’s Law now operates in several countries across the world

It was first rolled out in England and Wales in 2014. Since then, versions of Clare’s Law have been introduced in Scotland (2016) and Northern Ireland (2018). Canada and Australia have also trialled similar schemes to prevent domestic abuse, which follow the original ‘right to ask’ and ‘right to know’ two-part framework.

March 2021 Ottawa Ontario introduced Clare’s Law. From April 2021 Royal Canadian Mounted Police will now enforce Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Newfoundland & Labrador have introduced a version of Clare’s Law call Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act in November 2019.

New South Wales have introduced Clare’s Law. Has been trialled in South Australia and along with Queensland and Victoria are debating the introduction of the Disclosure Scheme. I think another page with general information would be helpful.

Why is it called Clare’s law?

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, a 36-year old woman from Yorkshire who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009.

She met him on Facebook, unaware that he had a criminal history when he befriended her.

The pair began a 6-month relationship, which Clare finally ended after it turned coercive. However Appleton refused to move on, subjecting her to consistently abusive behaviour such as harassment, damage to property, threats of violence and attempted assault.

Though Clare made a police statement and got a restraining order, Appleton’s behaviour continued unchecked.

It finally ended with him taking Clare’s life, followed by his own days after. Investigations later revealed that he had a history of violent and abusive behaviour, particularly towards women, which Greater Manchester Police were aware of but had not disclosed to Clare.

At the time, data protection laws had created a legal loophole which meant that former abusers were able to keep their criminal records confidential.

This meant potential targets like Clare had no way to check or ask police whether their partner had been similarly abusive in the past.

Following her Clare’s death, her father Michael Brown began a campaign to challenge this law.

He believed that Clare would not have lost her life if she had been aware of Appleton’s violent past. After 5 years of campaigning, Michael eventually managed to change the law to allow police to both disclose and proactively inform people of their partners’ criminal records and relevant past convictions. Clare’s Law was finally introduced in England and Wales in 2014 under the official title of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS).

Who created Claire’s law?

Michael Brown: the man and father behind Clare’s Law.

Clare’s Law was created by Michael Brown, after his daughter Clare was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.

The inquest into Clare’s death revealed that her ex-boyfriend had a record of violent behaviour against women, which she was not informed of due to a loophole in the Data Protection Act.

He campaigned for the right to know, to protect others like Clare. 

Michael believed that this knowledge could have saved Clare’s life. So he began a passionate campaign as an ambassador for other families who had also suffered a similar loss. His vision was to create a police disclosure scheme that would allow everyone the right to know of a partner’s history of violence.

Michael’s efforts paved the way for Clare’s Law in the UK and abroad

He finally managed to get Clare’s Law passed in England and Wales in 2014. It was then rolled out to his birthplace Scotland in 2016, and Northern Ireland in 2018. Since then, a version of Clare’s Law has also been trialled in New South Wales, Australia, and the province of Saskatchewan in Canada.

His landmark campaign was recognised with a number of awards

Michael received a number of awards recognising his efforts to raise awareness of Clare’s Law and domestic violence. These include a British Citizen Award (Jan 2020), and an Everyday Heroes Award in his home town of Aberdeen (Feb 2020). He was also appointed patron of The Endeavour Project – a Bolton-based support group for families affected by domestic abuse. Michael’s legacy continues to inspire change Sadly, Michael died in July 2020 – but his spirit continues to lives on. He was posthumously awarded the 2020 She Inspires award in the ‘He For She’ category, for male champions of gender equality. She Inspires also introduced the Michael Brown Agent Of Change award in his memory, recognising those who have also fought to right obvious wrongs.

Michael’s lasting impact has also been widely recognised by the press:

-‘his work has already saved hundreds of lives and 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’

A timeline of Michael’s campaign

2009
-Inquest into Clare’s murder reveals a loophole in the Data Protection Act that prevents police from sharing information about individuals with a history of violence or abuse

-Michael joins forces with Manchester news reporter Michelle Livesey. They contact Hazel Blears, Labour MP for Salford

-Nationwide poll is published in ‘Fabulous’ magazine, which reveals 91% of people would want to know if their partner had a history of domestic abuse. A further 77% stated they would leave a relationship if that information was disclosed to them by police

-Michael launches the ‘Respect and Protect’ campaign (later re-named the ‘Clare’s Law Campaign’) with the parliamentary support of Hazel Blears, and other MPs including former Home Secretary Alan Johnson

2010

-Michael and Hazel Blears meet current Home Secretary Theresa May, who announces the launch of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme consultation

-Michael’s petition for Clare’s Law receives over 1,000 signatures. He delivers it to Downing Street with Michelle Livesey and Hazel Blears, receiving significant media coverage and public attention

-Michael uses the media push to continue his public campaign for Clare’s Law

2012-14
-The Home Office announce a Clare’s Law pilot scheme by police forces in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Gwent

-Clare’s Law is finally rolled out to all police forces in England and Wales

2015-16
-Michael calls for a similar scheme to be introduced in his birthplace of Scotland, travelling to Holyrood to meet with Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon

-A pilot of Clare’s Law is launched in Ayrshire and Michael’s hometown of Aberdeen

-Clare’s Law is officially introduced in Scotland, and known as the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland (DSDAS)

2016 onwards
-Michael gives many TV and radio interviews (such as GMTV and The One Show), and gives speeches at various women’s refuges

-Several documentaries cover Clare’s story, including The Crime that Shook Britain, Deadly Dates, Swipe Right for Murder

-Teen magazine, local publications and national news all publish Clare’s story to raise awareness of the potential dangers of dating through social media

-Clare’s Law informs a Coronation Street storyline between characters Geoff Metcalfe and Yasmeen Nazir

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kelly Jones
Kelly Jones
2 months ago

All women should be aware of this law, it could save their lives, thank you for posting this article.