An initiative which gives individuals the power to find out if their partner has an abusive past is set to be rolled out across Norfolk.
The introduction of Clare’s Law locally, or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, follows a successful 14-month pilot in four other police forces, which provided more than 100 people with potentially life-saving information.
The move means from Saturday 8 March 2014 those with concerns about their partner’s history will be able to request background information from Norfolk Constabulary.
Detective Superintendent Julie Wvendth, who heads Norfolk Constabulary’s Vulnerability and Partnerships Directorate, said: “Norfolk Constabulary has been monitoring the progress of Clare’s Law in the pilot forces and welcomes the wider roll out on a national level.
“We are committed to supporting and protecting victims of domestic abuse and welcome any legislation that will assist us to do this.
“The idea is to give individuals a formal mechanism in which to make enquiries about people who they are in a relationship with. It represents a valuable addition to existing safeguarding measures and will enhance the efforts of all agencies and the public to keep vulnerable victims safe.
“Clare’s Law enables potential victims to take control of their life and make informed decisions about whether to stay with someone or not. It may be that somebody is in a relationship but feels unhappy about some of the behaviour of their partner is showing. If warning bells are ringing, then we would want to hear from you.”
The move comes as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) launches its week-long national In Focus initiative on Domestic Abuse with the aim to encourage more victims to seek help.
Clare’s Law - named after Clare Wood who was murdered by ex-boyfriend George Appleton - was launched as a year-long pilot scheme in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham.
Ms Wood, 36, was killed by Appleton at her home in Salford in February 2009. The mother-of-one met him on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women including repeated harassment, threats and the knifepoint kidnapping of another ex-girlfriend.
Between 1 April 2013 and 1 March 2014 (inclusive) there were 13,249 domestic incidents reported to Norfolk Constabulary - of which 3358 were crimes.
Between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 there were 13,089 domestic incidents reported to Norfolk Constabulary - of which 3210 were crimes.
Det Supt Wvendth, added: “Norfolk Constabulary will always take positive action against domestic abuse which includes supporting victims, ensuring a full risk assessment is carried out, conducting a vigorous investigation and charging and convicting the perpetrators.
“We do not only focus on matters which are criminal offences; often issues such as emotional and financial abuse can be subtle but are methods of control which need to be addressed.
“We work with other agencies to provide the support needed to break the cycle of abuse for families affected by such terrifying experiences. It is about working together to offer long term support and not just ensuring victims and their families make it through the criminal justice process.”
The disclosure of people’s history of domestic violence under Clare’s Law can be triggered in two ways:
Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police for information on a partner’s history of domestic violence. The request can be made by an individual in a relationship or can be from a third party who has concerns on their behalf.
Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances for instance where information or intelligence suggests an individual is at risk of harm from their partner.
Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary. Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period.
Clare’s Law is one of two initiatives being extended nationwide in a bid to tackle the emotive issue of domestic abuse.
In the summer Norfolk Constabulary is due to implement the use of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) to ban abusers from contacting vulnerable victims.
The DVPO approach has two stages:
• Where the police have reasonable grounds for believing that a perpetrator has used or threatened violence towards the victim and the victim is at risk of future violent behaviour, they can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice ‘on the spot’, provided they have the authorisation of an officer at Superintendent rank.
• Magistrates must then hear the case for the Protection Order itself within 48 hours of the Notice being made. If granted, the Order may last between a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days.
Allowing police to ban abusers provides immediate protection in the aftermath of a domestic violence incident and breathing space to a vulnerable person while they consider their next steps.
The Constabulary has taken the necessary steps to ensure the appropriate training and education has been put in place in force in relation to Clare’s Law.
In Norfolk individuals will be able to make an application under the Scheme by any of the following means:
By Telephone: Call 101 and speak to a call taker who will record the details of the application.
At A Police Station Public Enquiry Office: Make an application to a member of staff at a Police Station Public Enquiry Office.
Members of the public can visit the Force website for details of Police Stations with Public Enquiry Offices and opening times. Visit www.norfolk.police.uk.
It is important to note that anyone with concerns they or someone they know is at risk of immediate harm should contact the police by telephoning 101 or 999 in an emergency. The Scheme does not replace the existing arrangements for responding to situations where there is an imminent risk of harm to an individual.