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Plans are currently being considered for women to win the right to force the police to confirm whether their partner has a violent history.
The proposal is called ‘Clare’s Law’ and was launched on 17th July 2011 after the killing of 36-year-old mother, Clare Wood, by a man (Appleton) she met on Facebook. She had been charmed by him online but shortly after he was violent towards her and subjected her to sexual assault.
In 2009 after they had separated, Appleton strangled her and set her on fire in Salford. He then went on the run and was found a few days later having hanged himself. Ms Wood had first complained about Appleton to the police in 2008 after he had threatened to kill her, threatened her with an iron and damaged her property.
Mr Appleton had a violent history of brutal violence against women, threats, harassment and kidnapping at knifepoint.
The Clare’s Law campaign is being launched by Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles and Home Secretary Theresa May is said to be considering the idea. The campaign is backed by Ms Woods’s father and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The aim is to empower women with the knowledge of whether their partner has a history of domestic abuse. It would allow women with concerns about new partners to apply to the police station for information on any violent past. It would also allow the police to proactively alert women of the potential danger of their new partners – whether they want it or not. The information would only be released by Inspector rank or above and after satisfaction that any risk is genuine.
Critics have raised questions such as will men get the same rights? How would such a thing be realistically administered? How far would the history go back? Would it only cover violent offences? Would it warn women about people who have never been charged or convicted? What about the women who have been too scared to report dangerous men? What happens if a woman confronts her victim? Should resources be put into helping women get out of violent relationships?
At the end of June, Domestic Violence Protection Orders were launched allowing police and magistrates to stop offenders from contacting victims or returning to their home for up to 28 days. It is still very early days and the orders are currently being rolled out in Greater Manchester, Wiltshire and West Mercia.
Whether Clare’s Law comes into force or not, what is clear is that domestic violence is at epidemic levels and it need not be tolerated. Shocking statistics show that two women per week are killed by current or ex-partners and one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
The family law department at Stephensons is committed to providing a rapid response service to victims of domestic violence.
We believe it is the right of victims to receive immediate and effective legal protection. We have the largest team of specialist family lawyers in the North West available to advise and assist you. We have close links with organisations and individuals who can help victims of domestic violence.
We are members of the Greater Manchester Family Justice Council and one of our Partners Victoria Gethin is a member of the Domestic Violence Committee at the invitation of the Designated Family Judge. There is no need to suffer in silence, call us on 01616 966 229 now.
By family law solicitor, Jackie Price