The Home Office has announced that legal changes will be trialled that will allow women to request information from the police relating to any domestic violence committed by their current partners.
The change in the law has been called ‘Clare’s Law’ after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Manchester in 2009.
The sad case of Clare Wood has been particularly highlighted as she had made several complaints about her former boyfriend George Appleton to police. Mr Appleton went on to kill Ms Wood, and then later hanged himself.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigated Ms Wood’s case, ruled that she had been let down by Greater Manchester Police.
The Home Office have not detailed how the law will work in practice, although it is thought that it will run along similar lines to current legislation which allows parents to ask police if someone who has access to their children has a history of sexual offences.
The police already have a common-law power to offer information if they believe that it will prevent the commission of a crime; however, it is hoped that ‘Clare’s Law’ will add extra force to these underused provisions.
Home Office statistics suggest that two women are murdered by their current or former partners each week in England and Wales.
However, the move has been criticised by women’s groups. Sandra Horley is chief executive of Refuge, a charity which offers safe havens for women who are victims of domestic violence.
“Why are we spending money on untested, untried, costly initiatives?” she said.
“The reality is that most of the perpetrators aren’t known to the police, and women may not even take up this scheme. The Government’s own assessment is that, at best, it will reduce domestic violence by half of one percent,” she added.
The argument of limited benefit is challenged by evidence from the pilot scheme for Sarah’s law. During that trial, 315 applications were made for information relating to people with access to children. They resulted in 21 cases in which potentially dangerous individuals did have access to children.
Supporters argue that if even one murder or violent crime was prevented the law will have had a positive impact. Trials of Clare’s Law will commence in a limited number of police forces this summer.
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