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Clare’s Law; What, How and Why?

Clare’s Law; What, How and Why?

Domestic violence is something that everyone, girls and boys, are concerned about. It is something that can, will, and in some circumstances does affect other people, even the people around us. Study after study shows how under-reported and under-represented domestic violence is and how there is more that needs to be done for the victim. On International Woman’s Day, 8th March 2014, Clare’s Law was rolled out nationally. The question on most people’s lips is what is Clare’s law? And what different will it make?

What is Clare’s law, and how does it work?
Clare’s Law, otherwise known as the ‘right to know campaign’ is something that has been introduced to allow women to go to the police to enquire about a partners past and see if they have a past with regards to domestic violence. Its official name is Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. It is there to provide victims with information they may protect them from abusive situations. The scheme allows the police to disclose information about a partner’s pervious history of domestic violence or even violent acts.

Why Clare’s Law?
This law came about due to the tragic death of Clare Wood. Clare was 36 and a mother-of-one who was strangled and then set on fire by her ex-partner. Clare’s partner did have a very violent past and if Clare was able to have access to this information it most likely could have saved her life. There was a pilot scheme before the initial roll-out and the pilot only came back with successful and positive results. The pilot scheme was active for fourteen months and covered four different police areas. The stand-out statistic from the pilot was that the fourteen months it was active it provided over 100 people with potentially lifesaving information. If the scheme was able to provide that much information in such a small time and space, the information it would be able to provide in a larger context is enormous.

Issues with Clare’s Law
Overall the scheme has been argued to give help to those who are unsure about their partners violent past, however this has not stopped there from being criticisms. It has been argued that the support for the victims once they have received the information is restrictive. Additionally, the police still have to the power to decide what information they are going to give over, the police will have to be careful and think carefully about the information they are sharing. Is it going to be different for someone who is dating someone who they believe to have a violent past to someone who is already  in a long term relationship?

Furthermore, it is widely known that domestic violence is very hidden; in fact, 77% of domestic violence is not reported to the police. There is the worry that we do not have the adequate information that we need to protect women because reports of domestic violence are so few. Does the issue come down to the police and their attitudes and actions or will Clare’s law have a positive impact on all?

It may seem that the scheme is targeted solely at  women and girls. However, in reality, men are also subject to domestic violence, sometimes going unnoticed. It should therefore be stressed that Clare’s law is there to help both genders and not just one.

Is the law going to create a false sense of security? For example, is it going to give them a false sense of security through the possibility that their partner may have a violent past, but has gone unreported? What if someone does go to the police with genuine fears that her partner is a violent person and the police have nothing on record about him, would this then undermine her fears?

Another issue has been raised as to what women should or would do if they are given information about a partner which does show them to be violent. Is the woman just meant to go home, pack her things and leave? Realistically,  is this something that would happen? How are women meant to deal with this information and where would they go? The scheme needs to ensure that there is protection and support for women both during and after the information has been given.

Whilst some of the above does seem as if the introduction has many negative aspects, the proposal of the law as a whole is a way of parliament showing that they are validating the issues of domestic violence. The hope can only be that women are going to use the law and by reaching out, will create a need for more support to be put into place. It could also lead to there needing to be more training put into place for the police and the authorities that are going to deal with this issue. This training would be key as one of the biggest obstacles in victim protection is the police not understanding how to deal with domestic violence issues.

Clare’s law will have a positive effects overall because it is going to provide women and even men with the information they may need to save their lives and protect themselves. However, whilst the new law is an important start in addressing our domestic violence problem, it is huge issue that can only truly be solved by a change in people’s attitudes.

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