'Clare's Law' saves 1,300 women from violent partners in first year

Thousands ask to see criminal records in scheme launched after woman was killed by ex-boyfriend

Jamie Grierson
Monday 26 January 2015 01:00
Clare Wood, who was killed by her ex-partner in Salford
Clare Wood, who was killed by her ex-partner in Salford

A groundbreaking scheme that allows women to discover if their partner has a history of violence has been hailed a success after figures showed that more than 1,300 such warnings have been issued in less than a year.

Clare’s Law, named after Clare Wood who was murdered in 2009 by a former boyfriend, allows the police to disclose information about an individual’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts, if requested by their partner.

Using Freedom of Information laws, the Press Association discovered at least 1,335 disclosures have been made across England and Wales under the law following 3,760 applications for disclosure.

Clare’s Law was rolled out nationally last March, following a 14-month pilot in Gwent, Wiltshire, Nottinghamshire and Greater Manchester.

Miss Wood’s father, Michael Brown, said he was “delighted” the law is being used but urged more women to approach police to request the information.

Mr Brown, 71, who lives near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, said: “This is just people that are coming to the fore. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s an awful lot of it not reported, people are frightened to come forward.”

“We didn’t have the lofty ambitions to do away with domestic violence. What we did was try to give ladies and gents who were in trouble another weapon in their armour. I think we succeeded in that.”

The retired prison officer added: “This is just the start. This is what it is in just the first year, all these people know about Clare’s Law, they’re going to tell another five, another dozen, and next year this is going to snowball.”

The figures also show a wide regional variation in the likelihood of a disclosure being made under Clare’s Law. Labour MP Hazel Blears, who campaigned with Mr Brown to introduce the scheme, said she would write to the Home Secretary to ask what is being done to ensure best practice.

Miss Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton at her home in Salford. Unbeknown to Miss Wood, Appleton had a history of violence towards women and was known to prowl online dating websites. Appleton, also from Salford, was found hanged six days after Miss Wood’s death.

Outside the four forces involved with the Clare’s Law pilot, Lancashire had the highest number of disclosures at 146, while Norfolk had made just five disclosures.

Ms Ms Blears said: “The fact there have been almost 4,000 applications shows just how serious a problem domestic violence is in this country and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

“More than a third of those who have made an application have received information which empowers them to make a potentially life-changing – or even life-saving – decision to end a relationship. So it is clear the scheme has been of great assistance.”

Last year, a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said thousands of domestic violence victims were failed by police forces across England and Wales due to “alarming and unacceptable weaknesses” in the way cases were investigated. There were 269,700 domestic abuse-related crimes in England and Wales between 2012 and 2013, the report said, with 77 women killed by their partners or ex-partners in the same period.