Postcode lottery for domestic violence law

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People concerned about their partner’s potentially violent past are not always given the details if they ask police.

Humberside Police refused more than 80% of all ‘right to ask’ requests under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme in the year to June 2017, with only 13 out of 73 applications resulting in disclosure.

The scheme – better known as Clare’s Law – gives people the right to ask police whether their partner has a history of domestic violence or violent acts. It also gives authorities the power to decide that someone who did not ask has the ‘right to know’, in the hope it may protect them from an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy.

But the Bureau for Investigative Journalism found wide discrepancies in both how often people use the scheme and how often forces in England and Wales disclose details.

Disclosure rates for ‘right to ask’ requests in Yorkshire ranged from 18% in Humberside to 42% in North Yorkshire.

Michael Brown, who lobbied for the law following daughter Clare Wood’s murder by an ex-boyfriend in 2009, said he was “very disappointed” with the way some forces were using the scheme.

The former prison officer from Batley said: “Tackling domestic violence should be a priority but it seems like the message just isn’t getting down.”

Humberside Police had the region’s highest number of applications and highest rate of applications per 100,000 people for both types of request.

As with ‘right to ask’, there was wide national and regional variation in the ‘right to know’ disclosures prompted by police officers or officials seeking permission to tell a potential victim of abuse about their partner’s history.

In Humberside 46% (55 out of 120) of ‘right to know’ cases considered led to a disclosure.

Detective Chief Inspector Dan Patrick, from Humberside Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, said: “Humberside Police proactively look for those cases where potential victims of domestic abuse may have a right to know about their partner’s history.

“In 46% of the cases considered, disclosures were made which shows how seriously we take such matters.

“In addition, men and women also have a right to ask about their current or potential partner’s history.”

But in right to ask cases, Humberside Police force has the lowest disclosure rate.

DCI Patrick added: “In these right to ask cases it may be that Humberside Police either do not hold information, or any information held is not deemed necessary and proportionate for disclosure.

“In these cases, disclosures would not be made. In 18% of the cases considered under the right to ask scheme it was felt necessary to disclose information held.

“We work with our partners to ensure victims and children are safeguarded from abuse. This scheme forms just one part of that wider work. We would encourage anyone with any concerns to consider making a request. One of our highest priorities is to prevent domestic abuse and all requests received will be given appropriate consideration. No-one should have to suffer from abuse and together we can help prevent it.”