LEGAL ADVICE

Clare's Law

A Complete Guide

What is Clare's Law?

Although Clare’s Law came into force across England and Wales in March 2014, a lot of people still ask, what is Clare’s Law?

Briefly, it is a scheme which allows you to request information from the police if you believe your partner may be a danger towards you.

It is also known as the Domestic Violence disclosure Scheme.

Following on from the introduction of Clare’s Law, this provided the police with additional tools for managing the risk posed by perpetrators to possible victims.

Clare's Law Story

Clare’s Law was given its name after the story of Clare Wood. Clare, who lived in Salford, was tragically murdered and set on fire at the hands of her former partner, George Appleton, in February 2009. Throughout her relationship, Clare had made many reports about George Appleton to the police in the time leading up to her murder. These complaints included sexual assault, criminal damage, threats to kill and harassment. Despite these reports, Appleton was still able to enter Clare’s house and murder her. During the murder investigation, the family of Clare Wood learned about the criminal history of Appleton which included violence to women in the form of threats, harassment and kidnapping of a previous partner. Clare’s family also found that Appleton was previously jailed for six months for breaching a restraining order and again a year later in 2003 for three years for harassment towards a woman. Clare’s family campaigned for a change in legislation to protect people like Clare. The campaigning was successful and resulted in the creation of Clare’s Law.

Clare’s Law - Right to Know and Right to Ask

The right to ask element enables someone to request information from the police about a partners previous history to see if there has previously been a history of domestic violence and/or violent acts. The right to know element allows police the freedom to proactively disclose any of the information they may have become aware about where the perpetrator has a new partner and a past history of domestic violence and violent acts. The police will check their records for the individual in relation to any convictions – if the records shows (or suggests a risk) of a history of abusive or violent offences, the police will then decide whether to share the information with you. In the event that the police do decide to share information with you, you will not be provided with any records, instead this will be done via a face-to-face meeting.

How Does Clare's Law Work?

How to make a request under Clare's Law

A request under Clare’s Law, also known as a Clare’s Law application may be completed both online and over the phone. Alternatively, you may visit a police station. The most commonly used method is completing the online application form. These forms are vastly available on the websites of each police force.

The application form itself is very simple and straight forward. You are required to disclose your personal information including your name, date of birth, address and contact number. The police will ask you what the safest way to contact you is as they can appreciate that most people would like to keep this confidential.

Once the initial application is submitted, the police will complete their initial checks before contacting you to arrange a face to face meeting. The aim of this meeting is to gather some further information about the nature of your relationship and ensure that the application is genuine and not malicious. You would then also be asked to provide your identification.

Upon conclusion of this meeting, the police will meet with other agencies in order to discuss the information which you have provided.

If the agencies find traces of abusive behaviour or feel that there is a risk of violence, they will consider disclosing this information.
If the police deem it necessary to disclose their findings, they will do so in person.

Prior to any information being disclosed, you will be asked to sign a document agreeing that the information which is provided to you will not be used for any other purpose nor will be passed on further. This process does follow strict confidentiality.

Information is disclosed in person so the officers can assess whether or not you are at any immediate risk.

How do I make a Clare's Law Request?

A disclosure for information regarding a potential victim can be made under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. The request will fall under two categories, the right to know or the right to ask. The right to know application would be made by an individual who is a relationship whereas a right to ask application would be made by a member of the public.

An individual may be able to apply for a disclosure request by visiting a police station, phoning 101 or contacting your local police via email. Most police forces also have an online application process available through their websites.

After making initial contact with your local police force, an individual will have an initial meeting with the police to clarify the initial details. ID will be needed. These checks will point out any immediate action that may need to take place which therefore means that no disclosure will take place at this stage.

Subject to stage one, it may be required for the individual to participate in a face to face meeting. The police will use this meeting to gather more information about the individual and the relationship of yours and the partner. They will look at other places such as, prison services, social services etc. These checks will take around 35 days.

If there is proof that the ex-partner has been abusive in the past then this potentially indicates that there is a need to make disclosure to prevent further crime. This will be disclosed to protect the individual who may possibly been harmed.

Clare's Law Disclosure

A Disclosure is related to the sharing of information and data to a victim and/or third party, such as a friend or family member, about the person the subject is in a relationship with; for the purpose to defend that person against domestic violence.

All UK Police Forces have the right to release information to a possible victim who feels that they may be at risk and are obligated to defend and protect the public from Domestic Violence and other elements of crime. This disclosure of information falls under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme known as ‘Clare’s Law’.

Information may not always be given to the third party that makes the initial disclosure request; this is because it may be more suitable to release the information to the victim or someone who is in a better position to safeguard the subject.

 

If you feel you are at risk of becoming victim to domestic abuse, or feel you are involved with someone you fear may have been abusive in the past, why not make a disclosure request under Clare’s Law?

In terms of what data can be disclosed, a team will determine the following:
  • Whether a disclosure of information should be made
  • What can & cannot be disclosed
  • Who a disclosure will be made to (i.e. the victim and/or third party)
  • If any additional safeguarding action needs to be taken in order to protect a potential victim; this will be in the form of a safety plan suited to your needs which will aim to provide you the necessary support

After this meeting has reached a conclusion, a decision will be made as to whether any disclosure is necessary & whether the release of any information will be with a view to protect.

An individual’s listed convictions are private & will only be disclosed if the necessary personnel believes that is it lawful and proportionate to do so.

How successful is Clare’s Law?

Clare’s Law has been around for a number of years so it is often asked, was Clare’s law successful?

It is clear that Clare’s Law was a well thought out initiative which has been successful in reducing the numbers of domestic violence cases.

The aim of the initiative has been met by providing new partners with information to help them make a more informed decision on whether to continue with their relationship or not.

Clare’s Law has further opened up an avenue for the police and domestic abuse support services to provide help and support to potential victims when making the choice to stay with their partner or not. We have provided some further statistics below.

Clare's Law Statistics & Data

1
'right to know'

applications were applied for in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020.

1
'right to ask'

applications were applied for in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020.

1 %
of these 'right to know'

applications resulted in disclosure.

1 %
of these 'right to ask'

applications resulted in disclosure.

Clare's Law FAQs

If disclosure occurs then it should be treated as confidential and this information should not be shared with anyone. The police can prevent you if they believe you may discuss this information with someone else. The individual should be aware that under the Data Protection Act 2018 (c.12),it is an offence to, ‘knowingly or recklessly obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller’, ie the police.

If the information disclosed shows that there is a potential risk of harm, then you are entitled to keep children away from the individual in order to protect them. You must ensure that you act reasonably when doing so. It may also help to contact social services to discuss the issue with them.

Yes, an individual can make a third party request if they are concerned about someone who may be at risk of domestic abuse. Anyone such as, a parent, neighbour or friend can make this application if they believe someone may be at risk of abuse. However, the potential victim may be the one to receive the information as this is more appropriate.

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    For more information about Clare's Law

    Talk to Criminal injuries Helpline

    Further information and support

    Request information under Clare’s Law: Make a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) application

    Metropolitan Police website: https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/daa/domestic-abuse/alpha2/request-information-under-clares-law/

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