This month saw the rolling out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), known as Clare’s Law and Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO).
Clare Wood was strangled and set alight by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009. George Appleton had a record of violence against women and had received two separate prison sentences for crimes against two previous partners. The Law is named after Clare and it is hoped that it will help protect other potential victims from harm.
There are two limbs to the Scheme. Members of the public have a ‘right to ask’ for disclosure in certain circumstances and the police may make a disclosure, voluntarily, where they have cause for concern if they consider there is a right to know.
The scheme is open to men and women who may ask for information about their partner’s past. They must be able to show that they are in a genuine relationship with that person. The police retain discretion as to whether the information they hold should be disclosed or not. The disclosure must be lawful, proportionate and pressing. The police are not required to inform the perpetrator of the disclosure. Family members or neighbours may also request disclosure if they have concerns, but they must be in a position to protect the potential victim, otherwise the police will be unlikely to exercise their discretion.
If the police consider it appropriate to make a disclosure where they believe an individual is at risk of harm, they can do so even if they have not been asked to disclose by the potential victim.
The police initially carry out certain checks and they then have a face to face meeting with the individual making the application, to assess the risks. If a decision is made to make a disclosure the information is provided on a strictly confidential basis and must not be passed on to anyone else.
In cases where an incident of domestic violence has been reported to the police, the accused may be bailed without conditions, cautioned or it may be decided that no action should be taken as there is not enough evidence to prosecute. In these circumstances, if the police identify concerns, they may instigate a domestic violence protection notice, informing the alleged perpetrator that they intend to apply the court for a DVPO. If an order is made it may last up to 28 days and will give the victim 28 days in which to consider their options and seek advice from appropriate professionals. The court will consider all the evidence and may impose restrictions, such as preventing the accused from entering the family home or harassing the victim. A breach of the order can result in a fine of up to £5,000 or a 2-month prison sentence.
Please note that the information contained in this article is for general information only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice and we cannot, therefore, accept any responsibility for loss or damage incurred as a result of any use or reliance upon the information and material contained within the article.