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Improved measures to support victims of domestic abuse?

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Clare’s Law- Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Domestic Violence Protection Orders

On the 8th March 2014, International Women’s Day, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme was rolled out across England and Wales having been piloted in four police areas over the past 14 months.

The scheme known as Clare’s Law allows the police to disclose details of a partner’s previous history of domestic abuse or violence.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood who was murdered in 2009 by her former partner George Appleton.  She did not know about his history of violence against women which included threats, harassment and kidnapping at knife point.

Under the Disclosure Scheme an individual can ask the police to undertake checks to see if a partner has a record of abusive behaviour.  If the police check shows a record of abusive behaviour the police will consider sharing the information. The disclosure of the information will take place if it is lawful and proportionate and there is a pressing need.

Less publicity has been given to Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPN) and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO) which also came into effect on the 8th March.  A DVPN and DVPO can be used to provide immediate protection to a victim of domestic abuse where there is not enough evidence for the police to charge an alleged perpetrator.

A DVPN is the initial notice issued by the police if a Superintendent has reasonable grounds for believing that:

  • An individual has been violent towards or
  • Has threatened violence towards an associated person and
  • The DVPN is necessary to protect that person from violence or threat of violence by the intended recipient of the Notice.

Within 48 hours of an DVPN being issued the police can submit an application to the Magistrates Court for a DVPO.  The Court can make an Order if:

  • The Court is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the recipient has been violent towards or has threatened violence towards an associated person.
  • The Court thinks that making a DVPO is necessary to protect a person from violence or threat of violence by the recipient

A DVPO may be in force for no fewer than 14 days beginning on the day in which it was made and no more than 28 days.

Will these new schemes provide addition protection to people suffering from domestic abuse?  .

It is envisaged that a maximum time to complete the disclosure process,  including for the police to decide if it is necessary to disclose information,  is 35 days unless immediate protection is needed. 

Many perpetrators of domestic abuse are not known to the police.  The police checks and any disclosure (or non disclosure) is not a guarantee of a person’s safety.  If the police do not provide any information on a partner a person may be lulled into feeling they are not at risk.

It is for the police to make the decision about what information, if any, should be disclosed. It is for the police to issue a DVPN or to apply to the Court for a DVPO. The DVPN and DVPO sound very much like police bail conditions.  There have been a number of high profile cases in recent years when there have been failures on the part of the police, including in the case of Clare Wood. An Independent Police Complaints Commission found that Clare had been let down by “individual and systemic” failures within the police. 

The evaluation of the pilot scheme of Clare’s Law identified participants were positive about the scheme but  that police needed to ensure effective referrals are made  to support services for victims/survivors to access additional help.

The success of the disclosure scheme, DVPNs and DVPOs will be seen in time. It is hoped they will provide additional tools to help and protect victims of domestic violence.   What is clear is that the new measures should be part of a whole package of support for victims of domestic abuse. The police, support agencies and solicitors should work together to advise on all the options and devise a tailored safety plan so that victims of domestic abuse can make the best informed decisions to keep themselves and their families safe.  

T V Edwards solicitors provide specialist advice from accredited lawyers. For more information on specialist legal advice on domestic abuse please click here.