Claire’s Law: Is your partner hiding a history of violent abuse?

The national Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse (Scotland) was rolled out last week
The national Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse (Scotland) was rolled out last week

If you are in a new relationship and have suspicions that your partner may have an abusive past, you now have the right to find out.

This is thanks to the national roll-out of a trial scheme across Scotland which aims to prevent domestic abuse.

‘Clare’s Law’, the national Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse (Scotland) (DSDAS), was launched last week on Thursday, October 1.

It is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in Greater Manchester in 2009. Appleton had a history of violence and harassment against women of which Ms Wood was not aware.

Since the tragedy, her father Michael Brown has campaigned for people to have the right to ask for information about partners and for the police and other agencies to have the power to be able to make the disclosure.

A six-month trial scheme was held in Aberdeen and Ayrshire from November last year which saw 86 requests received by people wanting to learn if their partner had an abusive past – 35 of them resulted in a disclosure being made.

As the initiative proved to be successful, it is being rolled out across the country which means there will now be a formal route for people to find out if their partners have a history of domestic abuse.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick, said: “Domestic abuse affects all our communities. Our role is bringing offenders to justice and working with partners to ensure that victims are protected and receive the right support.

“Up to 25 per cent of police time is spent responding to domestic incidents with nearly 60,000 incidents recorded by Police Scotland officers last year.

“When people form new relationships, there can be concerns that the new partner may have an abusive past. This scheme gives people the opportunity to ask that question.

“During the pilot of the scheme, people who have received disclosures have been extremely positive about their experience.

“Make no mistake, it is difficult news to hear but it allows them to make an informed choice, to protect themselves and by extension their families and children from harm. In some cases, it can break that cycle of violence. A key element of the disclosure process has been ensuring appropriate support is available to people who may need it.”

She added: “We want to stop domestic abuse in all its forms and this scheme takes us closer to that aim.”

The scheme roll out coincides with the announcement of a special £300,000 heritage project to mark 40 years of Scottish Women’s Aid.

The project, being carried out by the charity in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, the University of Glasgow Centre for Gender History and Women’s History Scotland, will tell the story of Women’s Aid in Scotland through the voices of the women involved in the movement from its earliest years onwards.

An archive, website, touring exhibition and local events will be organised to interpret the history of Scottish Women’s Aid for local community members, activists, students and academics.

Around 100 women – who have been involved in Women’s Aid at different times in its history, and from all parts of Scotland – will be interviewed by up to 50 volunteers to create an oral history bank of women’s unique stories. They will include people who set up the first refuges, and those who have worked for the organisation and campaigned for Women’s Aid.

Their stories will be recorded, archived and gathered in an exhibition celebrating Scottish Women’s Aid’s 40th anniversary next year.

Lesley Orr, of Women’s History Scotland, said: “The primary sources for the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland are the individual and collective memories of participants. Since the movement began in the 1970s, pioneers of the first groups are ageing, and in some notable instances have died without having had an opportunity to record their memories. While it is still possible, it is vital to seek out and preserve the oral history of this unique historical moment.”

Dr Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “For the last 40 years, Scottish Women’s Aid has been working to support women and children experiencing domestic abuse, most recently alongside key partners like Police Scotland.

“As an organisation that supports any effort that increases women’s autonomy and safety, we welcome the roll out of the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse across Scotland and look forward to working with Police Scotland to develop other innovative approaches to making women safer.”

Anyone concerned can contact the police and request information on their partner’s background if they suspect a history of domestic abuse or violence. Forms are available at www.scotland.police.uk. Each case is considered by a multi agency panel to determine whether disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect the individual from their partner.