This week in the news there have been calls to expand a pilot of a scheme under which applicants could be given advanced warning of their partner’s violent past.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, otherwise known as Clare’s Law’, allows concerned parties to approach the police and request information about someone’s criminal record should they be concerned about violence becoming an issue.
So far trialled in four forces including Greater Manchester, Clare’s Law operates in a very similar way to Sarah’s Law, the scheme under which members of the public can make similar applications for information in relation to a child they feel may be at risk of sexual abuse.
Whilst Clare’s Law has yet to progress beyond the pilot stage, several disclosures have been made by forces in cases where they’ve thought there is relevant information the applicant ought to know.
I guess you could liken such schemes to the criminal record background checks made by employers when they’re looking to recruit for sensitive jobs – the advantages and disadvantages are similar too.
A principle disadvantage is that a clean record doesn’t necessarily give grounds for trust, it could be that someone has a violent past but simply not been caught.
A lack of anything on records could give a false sense of security and similarly, would disclosures simply be of court convictions or would they go into deeper detail about cases in which charges couldn’t be brought?
Different impressions may be given depending on what information is disclosed and how it is interpreted, what happens with the information likewise may cause concern should it be passed to third parties.
More positively though, giving past offending history to potential victims may put them into a much better position to appreciate the risk they could be in and to take action accordingly.
Armed with the knowledge early on, I imagine there would be a better opportunity to leave a relationship than would be available at a later point where the abuse has gradually increased to a point where the victim feels trapped.
It’s a peculiar barrier holding information on our systems but not being allowed to warn someone that they may be at risk of serious harm, a mechanism such as Clare’s Law would be useful to help overcome this.
In helping provide said warning to potential victims, Clare’s Law could be a useful tool in our toolbox.
What it isn’t though is a standalone solution – it’s a combination of tools that’ll help us tackle the problem effectively.