The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) pilot, better known as Clare’s Law, started on Thursday 6 September in Greater Manchester.
The scheme offers people a formal mechanism to make enquiries about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, and have a violent or abusive past.
This information may be disclosed via a request from a member of the public (“right to ask”) or by an agency where a proactive decision is made to consider disclosing the information in order to protect a potential victim (“right to know”).
If police checks show that a person may be at risk of domestic abuse from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “This pilot is about prevention and exploring new ways of protecting victims of domestic abuse. It helps individuals make an informed decision on whether or not to continue a relationship and will provide help and support to them when making that choice. It will enable police to act in the best interests of those people who believe they are at risk of violence by sharing information of a partners’ violent past.”
A disclosure under this scheme can be made by:
Someone who has concerns that their partner may harm them
A third party, such as a parent, neighbour or friend who has concerns about someone’s safety.
Information will only be given to someone who is in a position to use the information to protect someone from abuse. A third party person reporting concerns, would not necessarily receive the information.
Calls for the introduction of a national disclosure scheme gained momentum following the tragic case of Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Greater Manchester in 2009. Her partner had three previous convictions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
Greater Manchester Police joins police forces in Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham in the pilot, which will end in September 2013.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "Domestic violence is a dreadful crime which sees millions of women and families suffer years of abuse. That is why we are constantly looking at new ways of protecting victims and have ringfenced nearly £40 million of stable funding for specialist domestic and sexual violence support services and helplines until 2015.
"The domestic violence disclosure scheme is designed to prevent tragic incidents from happening by ensuring that there is a clear framework in place with recognised and consistent processes for disclosing information to the public.
“It’s just one of a series of measures we have introduced to tackle violence against women and girls. Earlier this year we announced two new stalking offences, and the criminalisation of forced marriage. We have also introduced domestic violence homicide reviews and are working with the Association of Chief Police Officers to ensure officers understand the complexities of domestic violence cases.”
Karen Harrison from the Women's Domestic Abuse Helpline said: "We welcome any initiative that contributes to raising awareness of domestic abuse. It is important that women trust their gut feelings but there is also information on the End the Fear website which can help women decide if they are in an abusive relationship. If women are worried about relationships they can seek help and support from Greater Manchester Women's Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0161 636 7525.”
Hazel Blears MP for Salford and Eccles said: “Following the tragic death of Clare Wood, who was a resident in Salford, I have worked closely with her father and family to gain cross-party support for ‘Clare’s Law’.
“Too many women and men continue to suffer domestic violence and it is vital that all possible steps are taken to protect people and to provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision.
“The pilots here in Greater Manchester and three other areas will provide the evidence to enable this important scheme to become law across the country.”
For further information about the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, or to make a request for information under it, contact Greater Manchester Police on 101 or the women’s domestic abuse helpline, Independent Choices, on 0161 636 7525. If there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, always call 999.