19th August 2021 at 4:20 pm #130315Wants To HelpParticipant
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, commonly known as Clare’s Law came in to effect in 2014 after the murder of Clare Wood by her boyfriend.
Clare’s father, Michael Brown, fought for this law as he believed that every woman had a ‘right to ask’ if the man they were with had a past that involved violence to other partners.
Women can fill in an online form and submit it to their local police force and ask if there is a domestic abuse history for their current partner. The person submitting the form is the Applicant. Any person can also request this information for someone else that they are concerned about who may be in an abusive relationship. Any information that can be given will be given to the ‘Person at Risk’. In most cases, the Applicant and Person at Risk is the same person. The person who you want information about is known as the Subject.
When the police receive a request for a DVDS they have to complete checks on the Subject within 24 hours. If these checks show a high risk of DA is likely, then they can do an ‘urgent disclosure’ to the Person at Risk straight away. However, very few cases tend to fall in to the ‘urgent disclosure’ category, so the next step is that you will receive a call from the police to explain the next step of the process.
The next step is to inform you that they have received your request and explain that you will be required to prove your identity and confirm that you have legitimate grounds for making these enquiries about a person, that you will not disclose any information you may be given to ANYONE else (including social workers and solicitors as well as family and friends) and that you can only use the information to keep yourself and/or your children safe. It can take up to 35 days from the date you submit your application to receiving a disclosure. The police will need two pieces of documentation from you to confirm your name and address, and they will then have to take the request to a MARAC meeting (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) to seek permission that a disclosure is acceptable.
ANY incident of domestic abuse can be disclosed to the Person at Risk. This includes convictions, cautions or allegations where there was insufficient evidence to proceed or no further action taken. This includes verbal/emotional domestics too that do not come under criminal remit.
In my experience and opinion, Clare’s Law has positives and negatives to it.
I’ll start with the positives and give a scenario below.
A lady has been on a few dates with a new guy over a period of three weeks and thinks he’s suitable to be a potential long term boyfriend. However, before she makes the decision to invest in him long term she would like to know if he has an abusive past. At the time she applies for a DVDS he is great, she has no concerns about him at all, but she wants to know if he has any concerning history. She now has up to 35 days to get any disclosure, so for the next 5 weeks she really needs to be cautious about how she proceeds and not get too close or invested in this man, because what happens if she really falls for him in that time and then gets a disclosure that he has previous ‘domestic history’? What if her relationship with this man is now two months and he is still treating her with love and respect? Is she prepared to walk away from him at this stage, or does she want to hear his ‘account’ of those incidents and then form her own decision about who she wants to believe? If Clare’s Law was to work as intended, then once a disclosure of an abusive history is given, the lady will give this man the boot and never see him again.
Now for the negative of this scenario and when the disclosure causes concern. If a lady is given a disclosure of an abusive history but has not yet received any abusive behaviour herself then she is often reluctant to walk away from this guy. Even worse, she has been given a history and has responded along the lines of “Yeah, he told me about that, but you don’t know what SHE did to HIM!” Often, an abuser has already told his new partner all about how he was a ‘victim’ in his previous relationships, how his ex ‘called the police on him so many times’ and he is now in the stages of grooming his new partner, so she already has the reasons in her head for not wanting to take note of a disclosure.
Another situation is when a lady who is in a long term abusive relationship wants to know if her partner has been abusive to other women before her. She wants this information to help her confirm that he is abusive and this will help her with her decision to leave him. Sadly, in some of these situations, there is no history of abuse to other partners in his past life, and there is ‘nothing to disclose.’ In these situations, it can lead a lady to then question herself as to whether she really is in an abusive relationship with her partner? Perhaps it really is her? After all, he’s always telling her everything is her fault and if only she did x,y or z then he wouldn’t behave a certain way? She knows he’s had previous girlfriends, but if the police don’t have any records of him abusing other girlfriends then perhaps he’s not an abuser? A lady can feel empowered applying for a DVDS thinking the outcome will help her make a decision. Sometimes the outcome can be disempowering and add to more confusion. A positive to this scenario is that the lady has made the DVDS application because she has already decided she is going to leave him and she needs to know what risk she is at during the leaving process and what, if anything, he has done to ex partner’s post separation. This will help her risk assessment of how and when to leave.
The thing to remember is that a DVDS in NOT something to rely on, or solely base decisions on.
‘Nothing To Disclose’ does not mean a man is ‘safe’ to date / continue to date / remain in a relationship with / leave without concern of further risk of harm. He could be an abuser but no one has ever reported him (we all know how reluctant we are to involve the police in our personal lives and we often do so as a last resort.) It also doesn’t mean he has no criminal convictions. He could have been in trouble for drunk and disorderly, drink driving, affray, assaults on strangers, burglary etc, but these offences cannot be disclosed under the DVDS. The police cannot disclose he is a criminal per se, they can only disclose abuse or violence in DOMESTIC situations.
Any disclosure or ‘nothing to disclose’ still needs to be weighed up with how this person is treating YOU. You really need to take action on how he is treating YOU.
Many ladies will apply for a DVDS on an ex partner because they want some confirmation that they did the right thing by leaving him because he was abusive. Sometimes, when they are out of an abusive relationship, they start to question themselves, or minimise what they have been through, and would just like to know that he has done this to someone else and they did the right thing by getting out. The DVDS cannot be used for that. You cannot get a disclosure on an ex for curiosity, nor can you get it to use his history in a Family Court application for a Non Mol or child contact concerns (there are other legal avenues for that scenario.)
19th August 2021 at 9:12 pm #130321CantmakedecisonsParticipant
I did this after I left, I needed clarification and reassurance that he hadn’t hurt anyone else. The disclosure only told me what I already knew in relation to myself, as in what I had reported. I didn’t know if to be relived or sad. Was I the one that caused his actions etc etc.
His now starting to date other women and I worry for them! I often think maybe it was just me but in honesty maybe he scared so many that they didn’t feel comfortable reporting!? Either way I know that his a danger and me leaving was the best thing for me and my children.
Just because nothing comes back from asking. Don’t think that’s a reason to stay! There’s so many reasons why it’s not reported abs you feel scared or devalued then your gut instinct is right.. leave him, he doesn’t deserve you x*x
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