It is deeply concerning to learn that some police forces in England and Wales are failing to provide vital information to hundreds of people who fear they or another person may be at risk of domestic violence.
Clare’s Law was introduced in 2014 in the wake of Clare Wood being killed by her partner George Appleton in Salford, having been unaware he had a history of domestic violence.
The law was established to protect potential victims of domestic abuse and ensure anyone can apply for information disclosure on a partner or a person of concern to them.
However, Home Office figures from 2016/17 have now revealed that a number of police forces are failing to provide details to many making requests.
Bedfordshire Police responded with information just three times from 38 requests, just seven per cent of times, whist Northumbria Police provided information to just nine per cent of requests, 25 times out of 273.
The best performing force, Cumbria, managed to provide information in 96 per cent of cases, making 245 disclosures from 256 requests.
Such a disparity in responses, whatever the reasons, is clearly not acceptable, and serious questions must be asked as to whether people are being denied information which could save them from harm.
Are opportunities to prevent people becoming victims of domestic violence being missed?
Overall nationally, just 3,612 requests were granted from 8,490 requests, figures which have been described by the father of Clare Wood, Michael Brown, as ‘very disappointing’.
At Hudgell Solicitors, our civil liberties department has handled cases in which the actions of police have come under question when people have become victims of domestic violence after making requests for help at an earlier stage.
Opportunities to protect the victim are missed, with serious, potentially fatal, consequences.
Whilst police forces are not duty bound by Clare’s Law to provide information on every request if they feel there is no threat from the individual considered, we certainly hear of too many cases where people concerned for their safety are not given the help and support they need to protect themselves.
It is certainly unacceptable if the huge disparity in disclosures is simply due to forces ‘prioritising’ their work. Certainly, a force such as Cumbria may have more resources to concentrate on domestic violence than say the London Met, but Clare’s Law was put in place to provide better protection, and if not followed properly it will not make the positive difference intended.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for domestic abuse, Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, has pointed to the scheme still being ‘relatively new’, stressing that forces are still learning the legal complexities of disclosing sensitive information.
However, that is not an acceptable excuse.
The law was introduced as a way to better protect people from those who could cause serious harm, and in some areas of the country, whether that is now happening appears seriously doubtful given these latest figures.
Police Forces responding to lowest percentage of requests under Clare’s Law
Bedfordshire – 7% (3 disclosures/38 requests)
Northumbria – 9% (25/273)
Essex – 9% (110/1,127)
Metropolitan Police – 26% (121/452)
Nottinghamshire – 26% (49/189)