Postcode lottery for domestic violence law
Fewer than half of requests for information are allowed
People concerned about their partner’s potentially violent past could be falling foul of “justice by geography”, an analysis of police disclosure rates has revealed.
Every force in Yorkshire and the Humber refused more than half of all ‘right to ask’ requests under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme in the year to June 2017, while more than nine out of 10 requests were rejected in some parts of the country.
The scheme – better known as Clare’s Law – gives people the right to ask police whether their partner has a history of domestic violence or violent acts.
It also gives authorities the power to decide that someone who did not ask has the right to know, in the hope it may protect them from an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy.
But the Bureau for Investigative Journalism found wide discrepancies in both how often people use the scheme and how often police forces in England and Wales disclose information.
It said disclosure rates for ‘right to ask’ requests, among 34 forces supplying data, ranged from seven per cent in Northumbria to 76 per cent in Cumbria.
Michael Brown, who lobbied for the law following daughter Clare Wood’s murder by an ex-boyfriend in 2009, said he was “very disappointed” with the way some forces were using the scheme.
The former prison officer from Batley said: “Tackling domestic violence should be a priority, but it seems like the message just isn’t getting down to some bobbies on the beat.”
Regionally, ‘right to ask’ disclosure rates were as low as 18 per cent in Humberside and 25 per cent in West Yorkshire but they reached just over 40 per cent in both South and North Yorkshire. In North Yorkshire, there were 62 applications and 38 disclosures.
As with ‘right to ask’, there was wide national and regional variation in the ‘right to know’ disclosures prompted by police officers or officials seeking permission to tell a potential victim of abuse about their partner’s history.
More than three-quarters of those requests were signed off by senior officers in West Yorkshire, but in South Yorkshire it was fewer than one in five.
Detective Chief Inspector Allan Harder said: “Clare’s Law is a vital tool for the police and other safeguarding partners. It is a key information sharing process aimed at keeping people safe
In North Yorkshire, there were 62 applications and 38 disclosures
“Importantly, the scheme also allows concerned friends or family members to get in touch with police and request this information too. Ultimately, this helps us all work together to make sure we are doing all we can to keep people safe from harm and make sure any potential victims of domestic abuse are protected.
“If police checks show that the person of concern has a record of violent behaviour or there is other information to indicate that any children may be at risk, the police will consider sharing this information and taking appropriate action.
“For victims, we would encourage them to contact police. We have specialist trained officers who can take any necessary action to keep you safe. If you don’t want to speak to police, then please call the Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) to get the support we know you vitally need.”