Clare’s Law will help reduce domestic abuse in Suffolk

Domestic violence. LT38-803-CON ENGPNL00120130621121209
Domestic violence. LT38-803-CON ENGPNL00120130621121209

Clare’s Law is being rolled out across Suffolk to help stop domestic abuse through the disclosure of people’s history of domestic related incidents.

Clare’s Law - named after Clare Wood who was murdered by ex-boyfriend George Appleton - was launched as a year-long pilot scheme in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham.

Ms Wood, 36, was killed by Appleton at her home in Salford in February 2009.

The mother-of-one met him on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women including repeated harassment, threats and the knifepoint kidnapping of another ex-girlfriend.

The law, also known at the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme gives individuals in a relationship and those directly concerned about that individual, such as family and close friends, the power to find out if a person has an abusive past.

The successful pilot in the above forces provided more than 100 people with potentially life-saving information and from Saturday, March 8 those with concerns about a partner’s history will be able to request background information from Suffolk Constabulary.

Detective Superintendent David Cutler, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People for Suffolk Police said: “We are committed to supporting and protecting those suffering domestic abuse and welcome any legislation that will assist us to do this.

“The idea is to give individuals and those concerned about that individual, a formal mechanism in which to make enquiries about a partner.

“It represents a valuable addition to existing safeguarding measures and will enhance the efforts of all agencies and the public to keep vulnerable individuals safe.

“Clare’s Law enables potential victims to take control of their life and make informed decisions about whether to stay with someone or not.

“It may be that somebody is in a relationship but feels unhappy about some of the behaviour of their partner is showing. If warning bells are ringing, then we would want to hear from you.”

The introduction of Clare’s Law comes during part of a week-long national focus on domestic abuse, where forces across the country are explaining what they do to protect victims of abuse and highlighting the support available from charities, local authorities, social services and probation services in a bit to encourage more people living with domestic abuse to seek help.

The ACPO-led week has also fallen in a month in which domestic abuse is the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s ‘Passmore Priority’.

Furthermore the PCC’s Police and Crime plan outlines a force priority to reduce the percentage of ‘repeat’ victims of domestic abuse crime/incidents.

Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore said: “I am 100 per cent behind Clare’s Law and will support the Constabulary to make sure it works well in Suffolk. We need to do all we can to try and rid our county of domestic abuse and protect vulnerable individuals from becoming victims.

“As a civilised society we must not tolerate this kind of totally unacceptable behaviour.

“We are currently investigating how new technology can help provide individual protection and full implementation of Clare’s Law is an essential contribution to making Suffolk a safer place in which to live, work, travel and invest.”

During the last quarter of October 1 to December 31, there were 2,102 recorded incidents of domestic abuse, an 11 per cent increase in the number of compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Of these 2102 cases nearly a quarter had experienced abuse before.

Of the crimes committed, 74.6 per cent were of a violent nature, with 38.0 per cent resulting in the victim suffering some form of injury.

The disclosure of people’s history of domestic violence under Clare’s Law can be triggered in two ways:

Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police for information on a partner’s history of domestic violence.

The request can be made by an individual in a relationship or can be from a third party who has concerns on their behalf.

Right-to-Know: police can pro-actively disclose information in prescribed circumstances for instance where information or intelligence suggests an individual is at risk of harm from their partner.

Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary.

Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to provide support through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period.

Clare’s Law is one of two initiatives being extended nationwide in a bid to tackle the emotive issue of domestic abuse.

In the summer Suffolk Constabulary is due to implement the use of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) to ban abusers from making contact with their previous partner.

The DVPO approach has two stages:

- Where the police have reasonable grounds for believing that a perpetrator has used or threatened violence towards a person and they are at risk of future violent behaviour, they can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice ‘on the spot’, provided they have the authorisation of an officer at Superintendent rank.

- Magistrates must then hear the case for the Protection Order itself within 48 hours of the Notice being made. If granted, the Order may last between a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days.

Allowing police to ban abusers provides immediate protection in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident and breathing space to a vulnerable person while they consider their next steps.

The Constabulary has taken the necessary steps to ensure the appropriate training and education has been put in place in force in time for the weekend in relation to Clare’s Law.

In Suffolk individuals will be able to make an application under the scheme by calling 101 and speaking to a call taker who will record the details of the application.

It is important to note that anyone with concerns they or someone they know is at risk of immediate harm should contact the police by telephoning 101 or 999 in an emergency.

The Scheme does not replace the existing arrangements for responding to situations where there is an imminent risk of harm to an individual.