Every week, we answer some of the most commonly asked family law questions we hear from our clients. This week: “Clare’s Law

I’ve heard a lot in the media this week about “Clare’s Law” – what is it?

“Clare’s Law” is a pilot scheme which is being tried in four areas in England and Wales, aimed at reducing the risk of domestic violence.

Officially called the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, the new law will give people the right to ask the police whether or not their new partners have a history of violence.

Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009, having met him on Facebook. Campaigners demanding a change in the law, including Clare’s family, were worried about the increasing numbers of people who meet their partners on the Internet without any knowledge of their past.

Don’t people already have the right to know if their partner has a violent past?

At the moment, there is no automatic right to ask these questions. If the police think that they need to release information about a person’s criminal convictions, they can only do so if they believe it will directly contribute to preventing another crime.

Under Clare’s Law, people will have the right to make the enquiries – but the new law does not go so far as to order the police to actually disclose all of the information they hold.

Despite the campaigners’ wishes that the law should be changed to allow concerned family and friends to “vet” partners, information will only be released to a partner or spouse once authorised by a senior police officer, and then only if they are fully satisfied that there is a genuine cause for concern.

When will this come into action?

The pilot scheme starts in summer 2012 and Gwent Police are one of the four forces who will be trialling the new law, along with Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire and Wiltshire.

If your partner has been violent towards you, or if you believe you are at risk from domestic violence, your first action should always be to contact the police. If you would like more advice on your legal rights, then please call us on (029) 2034 2233, or e-mail enquiries@wendyhopkins.co.uk, and we will do our best to advise you.

Published: 02/03/12