Clare’s Law marks milestone in fighting domestic abuse

VICTIM ... Mary* could have benefited from Clares Law and avoided years of abuse.

VICTIM ... Mary* could have benefited from Clares Law and avoided years of abuse.

TODAY marks a milestone for campaigners against domestic abuse – as Clare’s Law comes into force across the Northumbria Police area.

The new legislation will allow people who have concerns over a partner’s behaviour to contact police to find out if they have an abusive past.

The move, piloted for 14 months in other police forces, has been welcomed by domestic abuse campaigners in South Tyneside as a step in the right direction.

Last month, 65 women were referred to domestic abuse charity Options, based in South Shields, after being physically or emotionally attacked by their partners.

Between May and December, last year, 638 referrals – a rate of about 20 a week – were made.

Julie Robinson, Options co-ordinator, said: “This new law will assist people who have concerns about their new partner, who may be acting in a controlling or abusive manner, the chance to find out if they have a violent or abusive past.

“Having this information could give victims the details they need to make an informed choice as to whether they want to carry on with the relationship. For those being told their partner has an abusive past, support will be offered,

“Relatives will also be able to make a disclosure application.

“However, it will be up to the police as to what, if any, information is shared to them.”

Clare’s Law, officially known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, is named after Clare Wood, murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009.

The 36-year-old mum was killed by Appleton who, unknown to her, had a history of violence toward women. Her body was found at her home in Greater Manchester – she had been strangled and set on fire.

During the pilot scheme, The Home Office says more than 100 people had been provided with potentially life-saving information.

It is believed Clare’s Law may also identify potential victims, police might not be aware of, so steps can be taken to protect them.

Detective Superintendent Steve Wade, from Northumbria Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Department, said: “People will be able to ask for information on their partners if they have concerns they may have a violent or abusive past. “If it is time critical, in that there is an immediate threat to life of the victim, immediate steps to protect that person will be taken.

“One of the things we will stress, is if someone does come to us asking for information and we decide the information is to be given, we wouldn’t just go and knock on their door. We have specially-trained officers who will deliver the information in a way which will safeguard the victim, we will also signpost them to domestic abuse agencies.

“The choice as to what happens next will always be with the victim.

“There are two parts of Clare’s Law, the right to ask and the right to know the answer. There could be times when the person asking is not the best one to be given the information, so we will seek the best person able to protect them.”

People can make a disclosure application by contacting police on 101, visiting a police station and talking to an officer, or through the police website www.northumbria.police.uk. Options can be contacted on 456 7577.

Twitter: @shieldsgazlisa

Victim tells of plight

THE chance to find out about her ex-partner’s abusive past could have saved Mary* years of torture.

Today, as Clare’s Law – the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – is rolled out, it has been welcomed by the 47-year-old.

As a young girl of three, she was physically abused by her father.

She pinned her hopes on one day marrying a man who would show her the love she deserved.

But it wasn’t meant to be, as the man who she believed to be her saviour turned out to be abusive, torturing her emotionally, physically and sexually.

It was only through the help of a friend she was able to escape.

She said: “At times, I just wanted to die. I just thought this was my life and this was my lot. I just didn’t know any different.

“My ex-husband did have a history of violence, but I did not know. I think if I had known, I would have run away. I would have gone to the police.

“I think Clare’s Law is a great idea. If a woman, or a man, has concerns about their partner, they could find out from the police.

“Just having that information could give them the courage they need to leave.

“When you are being abused, you feel like you are the only person going through it, and that no one is going to believe you.

“It’s only when you speak out, you realise you’re not and that there is help out there.

“It is hard to tell your story, knowing you might have to go to court and tell them intimate things.

“It’s really hard, but when it’s over you get such a sense of relief. It’s definitely worth it.

“I have got more confidence now than I ever had before, I’ve even got a bank account, something I never had, I just feel safe now.

“I don’t see myself as a victim anymore, I see myself as a survivor.”

Mary, received the help and support from Options – a domestic abuse charity based in South Tyneside – and is looking at training to become a counsellor.

* Mary is not the victim’s real name.




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