In November 2013, The Home Secretary - Teresa May visited Swindon Women's Aid. During this visit she spoke with staff and victims who had used the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - DVDS (also known as Clares Law) and announced from April 2014 the DVDS pilot scheme in Swindon and Wiltshire would be rolled out nationally to all police forces in England.
- What is a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme?
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) – often known as ‘Clare’s Law’ – was first piloted in Swindon and Wiltshire in July 2012. The scheme provides members of the public with a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with or who is in a relationship with someone they know,
On request, the police will undertake checks to show if the individual has a record of violent offences, or there is other information to indicate the person you know is at risk, the police will consider sharing this information to protect the potential victim. The scheme aims to enable potential victims to make an informed choice on whether to continue a relationship. It also provides help and support to assist the potential victim when making that informed choice, should they wish to exit the relationship.
- Who can ask for one?
A disclosure under this scheme is the sharing of specific information about an individual with the person making the application or a third person for the purposes of protecting a potential victim from domestic violence. Anyone can make an application about an individual who is in an intimate relationship with another person and where there is a concern that the individual may harm the other person.
Any concerned third party, such as a parent, neighbour or friend can make an application not just the potential victim; however, a third party making an application would not necessarily receive the information about the individual concerned. It may be more appropriate for someone else to receive the information such as the victim or another person who is best placed to protect the potential victim.
- How do I make an application?
It is important to remember that anyone can make an application to the police about an individual. There are a number of ways to do this, just contact the police for further details.
- Visit the police station
However, if you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is in emergency, you should always call 999.
When you contact the police, they will take details on the nature of your relationship with the potential victim and their partner. You will also need to give your name, address and date of birth. At a later stage you will need to provide proof of your identity.
The police undertake checks based on the information you have provided and an initial risk assessment. These checks will establish if there are any immediate concerns, if the police believe that someone is at risk and in need of protection from harm, they will take immediate action.
Depending on the outcome, you may then be required to participate in a face to face meeting with the police. This meeting will be to establish further details about your application in order to assess any risk and for you to provide proof of your identity.
The forms of ID that could be used are:
- Your passport
- Driving license
- A household utility bill
- Your bank statement
- Your benefit book
- Your birth certificate
The police will use this meeting to gather more information from you about the nature of the relationship between the person you are concerned about and their partner. They may also ask for further information from you on why you have made an enquiry under this scheme.
The whole process and the disclosure of information if decided necessary, will be no longer than 35 days.
- What kind of information might you be given:
If the checks show that the individual you are enquiring about has a record for violent offences or there is other information that indicates there is a pressing need to make a disclosure to prevent further crime, the police may disclose this to the person who is most able to protect the victim.
It should be noted that details about a person’s previous convictions are treated as confidential and information will only be disclosed if it is lawful and proportionate, and there is a pressing need to make the disclosure to prevent further crime.
It may be the case that the individual you are asking about is not known to the police for violent offences or there is insufficient information that indicates they pose a risk of harm to the potential victim, but they are showing worrying behaviour. In this case the police or other support agency will work with you to protect the potential victim and can provide advice and support.
The police may take action against you if the information is disclosed without their consent, which could include civil or criminal proceedings. You should be aware that it is an offence (under section 55 of the data protection act 1998) for a person to ‘knowingly or recklessly obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller’ which in this case is the police.
If no disclosure is made but you still have concerns and want further information about protecting someone from domestic violence, there is action you can take for the future.
The police can provide you with information and advice on how to protect someone from violent behaviour and how to recognise the warning signs of domestic abuse. Swindon Women’s Aid can also provide you with information about domestic violence, how to spot it and how to work with other agencies to intervene.
Domestic Violence Protection Notices & Orders
Domestic Violence Protection Notices (DVPN) can be issued by the police to suspected Domestic Violence perpetrators, and can require them to leave their homes if they live with the alleged victim for up to 48 hours. The Domestic Violce Protection Order (DVPO) is a court order which must follow 48 hours after the DVPN. The Order prohibits the perpetrator from returning to the property for 28 days. This allows the victim some space to consider their options whilst providing immediate protection from the perpetrator.