Hertfordshire police dealt with more than 300 'Clare's Law' domestic violence disclosure requests in a year

Clare’s Law allows people to find out if their partner has an abusive or violent past

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 3:32 pm

More than 300 requests for information about potential abusers were handled by Hertfordshire 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.

Police

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 Hertfordshire officers submitted 49 applications under Right to Know in the year to March 2020 and 14 were approved in that time, the equivalent of 29 per cent.

The public were more successful, with 257 Right to Ask applications submitted and 107 disclosures approved – around 42 per cent.

Unsuccessful applications include those where there is nothing to disclose, those that do not fit the eligibility criteria and those withdrawn by the applicant.

In the same period, police recorded 12,505 crimes of domestic abuse.

Detective Superintendent Mike Trotman, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s head of Safeguarding, said: “We welcome the increase in the number of Clare’s Law applications.

“In recent years we have made it easier for people with concerns about their partner’s history to make requests for information with a new online application form on our website. These requests are then dealt with by dedicated staff in our Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit.

“Every application is considered fully and where there is information of concern around an individual it is always disclosed to the person at risk of harm. They can then make more informed choices about their relationship.

“Even where there is no relevant information to disclose, advice and support is still offered as they may continue to have concerns about their partner’s behaviour."

To find out more about Clare’s Law or make an application go to www.herts.police.uk/ClaresLaw.

Women's Aid said a stark variation in disclosure rates for forces across England and Wales - which range from 12 per cent to over 80 per cent 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 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 domestic abuse 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 per cent 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."

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 per cent of applications resulted in disclosure in 2020, compared to 48 per cent 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.”