The Government has announced that it intends to trial a change to the law to allow the police to disclose, on request, the criminal backgrounds of potential partners.
Four areas will trial the scheme; Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Gwent.
This law, dubbed ‘Clare’s Law’, has been proposed by the family of Clare Brown, who was murdered at the hands of an abusive boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009. Appleton had a long criminal history of domestic violence and Clare’s father has always maintained that she would not have started a relationship with him if she been aware of his past.
The family actually wanted the law to go further – to require the police to actually tell potential partners of (usually) men details of their criminal past as a matter of course; without the need for any request to be made.
You would have thought that it would be sensible to allow this, but it is opposed by a number of charities working with the victims of domestic violence, for example Refuge. They maintain that the priority for the Government is maintaining the provision of legal aid to allow victims to apply to the courts for protection orders. Commenting on ‘Clare’s Law’, a spokesperson from the charity said “we can’t afford the luxury of expensive and untested new schemes”.
Furthermore, Refuge point out that the police can already disclose details of previous convictions upon request and that only a small proportion of dangerous men have a criminal past. In any event, the police will not be able to provide details of applications for injunctions or harassment orders. As such, it may provide a “false negative’ and lull potential victim into a false sense of security.
The 12-month trial of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is due to start in the summer.