Clare's Law

My name is Lucy Hale and I have been a Detective with Dorset Police for over 15 years. I currently work in the Safeguarding department which administrates Clare’s Law. Dorset Police currently administer around 500 Clares Law disclosures each year and that number is increasing. So what is Clare’s Law? Clare’s law is a formal mechanism to enquire about a person’s past history of domestic abuse and aims to help someone make a more informed decision about whether to continue a relationship. Police will disclose confidential information about a person, their criminal convictions and behaviour.

The History

In February 2009 Clare Wood was killed by her ex-partner George Appleton. The couple had started dating in April 2007 after talking on an internet dating site but Clare ended things in October 2008 when she discovered he had had affairs with 4 different women. After they split up Clare made numerous reports to the Police stating that Appleton had caused criminal damage, harassed her, threatened to kill her and sexually assaulted her. Clare had installed a panic alarm after making an allegation of attempted rape and a week before her death Appleton was arrested for smashing down her front door. On 2nd February 2009 Appleton strangled Clare in her own home and set her on fire. He hanged himself 6 days later in an abandoned pub.

George Appleton had a history of violence against women. He had been jailed for 3 years in 2002 for harassing another woman and a year prior had served 6 months for breaching a restraining order. Clare had told her father Michael Wood that Appleton had served time in prison for motoring offences. Michael believed that Clare’s death would have been preventable if she had known about Appleton’s violent past.

After her death Clare’s father campaigned for the introduction of a law that would allow everyone to have a right to know of a partner’s history of violence. Clare’s law was adopted in England and Wales in 2014 after public consultation and a pilot programme in selected areas.

The Scheme

Clare’s law is officially known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. The scheme has 2 parts, the Right to Ask and the Right to Know.

Right to Ask – Anyone has the right to ask the police for information about their partner’s previous history to see if they have a history of domestic violence and/or violent acts.

Right to Know – The Police have the freedom to proactively disclose any of the information they may have become aware of where a perpetrator has a new partner and a past history of domestic violence and/or violent acts. Anyone can apply for a right to know disclosure on behalf of someone else but only the person at risk will be given the information. The person at risk will not be told who made the request.

The Process

A Clare’s Law disclosure can be applied for via a request to Police. In Dorset this is usually done online and anyone can make the application on behalf of another person. The online form will ask for the informants’ details, the details of the person who needs the disclosure, and the person who the disclosure is about – commonly known as the ‘subject’. We will ask for the reason why someone is making the request – common responses include wanting the new partner of an ex to be aware of past violence, or someone starting a new relationship wanting to check if there is any risk. We will

need the subjects full name, date and place of birth, address, and contact details, and whether they have any children. We will ask for the same details for the person at risk and the length of the relationship.

Once the application has been received the details will be checked and a Detective Sergeant will conduct an initial check and a risk assessment. Further checks and reviews will be conducted before a Detective Inspector authorises whether a disclosure is to be made. Each application is risk assessed on an individual basis. The subject will not be told that a disclosure is being made about them.

The Disclosure

Once a disclosure has been authorised a document is prepared and an officer will contact the person who is at risk and offer the disclosure to them. You do not have to agree to a disclosure and can refuse. If the person at risk agrees the officer will arrange to meet them at a place of their choosing and the disclosure will be done face to face. You can request that an officer is not in uniform and if you need support you may be able to have someone with you if they are there in an official capacity. You will not get to keep a copy of the documents and will be asked to sign an agreement that you will not share the information with anyone else. You will be offered support and the opportunity to ask any questions.

Clare’s Law is available to anyone and we encourage people to apply if they have any concerns about a partner or the partner of a friend or family member. It will not be used for any purpose except for keeping people safe and helping them to make informed choices.

If there are any questions about the disclosure scheme please contact Dorset Police online or via 101.