On 21 November Swindon Women's Aid received a visit from Theresa May the Home Secretary and Norman Baker, the Crime Prevention Minister. The Home Secretary and the Minister had a guided tour of the refuge building and spoke to staff and our partners the police about what we were doing to support victims of domestic violence and abuse in Swindon. During the visit they also spoke with a victim who had suffered abuse at the hands of her partner and who had used 'Clare's Law' to find out that he did have a previous history of violence, as a result of the disclosure she left the relationship and has now successfully moved on in her life.
The Home Secretary and the Minister were impressed with the facilities that Swindon Women's Aid were able to offer victims and their children at the refuge and we were grateful to received such a high profile visit prior to the announcement by the Home Secretary today to roll out 'Clare's Law' across the country.
Clare's Law enables individuals to check the police record of a new partner and due to the success of the pilots, which were introduced in September 2012 in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire & Swindon, Nottinghamshire and Gwent it will be rolled out across England and Wales.
The policy is named after Clare Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her Salford home in February 2009. She was unaware of his history of violence against women. The 36-year-old mother had made several complaints to the police about George Appleton, who she had met on the internet, before he killed her. He was later found hanged.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission at the time criticised Greater Manchester Police for failings in the case. Since her death, Miss Wood's father, Michael Brown, has campaigned for people to have greater rights to know about the violent past of partners.
Following the announcement by the Home Secretary today, from March 2014 the police will be able to run checks and speak to other agencies about individuals who may pose a threat. If a risk is discovered, information about an abusive partner may be disclosed to whoever is best placed to help - but the disclosure must be "lawful and proportionate".
As well as the potential victim, a third party such as a parent can also apply for information under Clare's Law - which is officially called the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. Since September 2012 there have been 118 applications for disclosures in Swindon & Wiltshire with 22 being granted. Swindon Women's Aid works closely with the police and other agencies to support victims who have requested a disclosure and to minimise their future harm, should they decide to end their relationship.
Swindon Women'd Aid works to support female and male victims of domestic violence and abuse. We operate a 24 hour service which is available 365 days a year. If you want to talk to someone or need help please call us on 01793 610610. In an emergency always call 999.