Aylesbury Vale residents using 'Clare's Law' requests to find out their partner's criminal history

More than 450 requests for information about potential abusers were handled by Thames Valley police in a year.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 10:34 am
More than 450 requests for information about potential abusers were handled by Thames Valley police in a year.

Known as Clare’s Law, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme allows police to share someone's criminal history with their current partner if they feel they are at risk.

There has been a rise in the number of people turning to the national scheme for information in the area, where domestic abuse rates have also grown since 2019.

Named in memory of Clare Wood, who was killed by a former partner police knew to be dangerous, Clare's Law has two elements.

Right to Ask allows the public to request disclosure from police about a potential abuser while Right to Know sees officers seek permission to share information with someone about their partner.

Data from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services shows that Thames Valley officers submitted 78 applications in the year to March 2020 under Right to Know and 28 were approved in that time, the equivalent of 36%.

The public were less successful, with 392 Right to Ask applications submitted and 60 disclosures approved – around 15%.

Unsuccessful applications include those where there is nothing to disclose, that do not meet the eligibility criteria or where the applicant withdraws the request.

Women's Aid said the variation in disclosure rates for forces across England and Wales - which range from 12% to over 80% for both parts of the scheme - shows a "very worrying lack of consistency" that could impact upon the safety of those at risk.

Decisions are taken by a multi-agency panel and applicants must sign confidentiality agreements before information is shared. Disclosures are restricted to the suspected abuser's partner, though a third party can apply on their behalf.

Information can be provided if the subject has been convicted, cautioned or reprimanded for violent or abusive offences or if safeguarding authorities hold intelligence to suggest they are a risk to their partner.

Sarah Davidge from Women's Aid highlighted difficulties in prosecuting domestic abuse and said: "Most women do not report it to the police.

"The Right to Ask scheme enables people to ask for information to be shared if they are concerned their partner had been abusive in the past.

"In 2020, only 37% of applications to this scheme resulted in a disclosure.

"Many women who were worried about their partner's behaviour received, therefore, what may be perceived as confirmation that their partner's previous behaviour was not a cause for concern.

"This can bring a false sense of security, and crucially, a missed opportunity to offer support and signposting."

Clare's Law applications increased in Thames Valley, from 429 in the year to March 2019 to 470, while the overall disclosure rate dropped from 20% to 19%.

At the same time, the number of domestic abuse crimes in the area rose to 26,651 from 22,499.

At the same time, the number of domestic abuse crimes in the area rose to 26,651 from 22,499.

National figures show more than 20,000 Clare’s Law requests were made in the year to March 2020. In 2019, there were just over 13,700.

Of those, applications from the public almost doubled, from around 6,500 in 2019 to just over 11,500.

However, disclosure rates across England and Wales dropped – the equivalent of 43% of applications resulted in disclosure in 2020, compared to 48% the previous year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “As part of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill we are putting the guidance on which the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is based into statute.

"This will place a duty on the police to apply the guidance unless there is good reason not to and will strengthen the visibility and consistent operation of the scheme.”