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6 March 2014, 06:00
A new law which allows people to find out if their partner has an abusive past is set to be rolled out across the UK tomorrow.
The introduction of Clare’s Law locally, or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, follows a successful 14-month pilot in four other police forces, which provided more than 100 people with potentially life-saving information.
The move means from tomorrow (8th March) those with concerns about their partner's history in our region will be able to request background information from Norfolk and Suffolk police.
Detective Superintendent Julie Wvendth, from Norfolk police, said: "Norfolk Constabulary has been monitoring the progress of Clare’s Law in the pilot forces and welcomes the wider roll out on a national level.
"We are committed to supporting and protecting victims of domestic abuse and welcome any legislation that will assist us to do this.
"The idea is to give individuals a formal mechanism in which to make enquiries about people who they are in a relationship with. It represents a valuable addition to existing safeguarding measures and will enhance the efforts of all agencies and the public to keep vulnerable victims safe.
"Clare's Law enables potential victims to take control of their life and make informed decisions about whether to stay with someone or not. It may be that somebody is in a relationship but feels unhappy about some of the behaviour of their partner is showing. If warning bells are ringing, then we would want to hear from you."
The move comes as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) launches its week-long national In Focus initiative on Domestic Abuse with the aim to encourage more victims to seek help.
Clare’s Law - named after Clare Wood who was murdered by ex-boyfriend George Appleton - was launched as a year-long pilot scheme in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham.
Ms Wood, 36, was killed by Appleton at her home in Salford in February 2009. The mother-of-one met him on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women including repeated harassment, threats and the knifepoint kidnapping of another ex-girlfriend.
Between 1 April 2013 and 1 March 2014 (inclusive) there were 13,249 domestic incidents reported to Norfolk Constabulary - of which 3358 were crimes.
Between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 there were 13,089 domestic incidents reported to Norfolk Constabulary - of which 3210 were crimes.
Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore said: "Domestic violence is very complex issue and can manifest itself in many ways, this includes, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
"Since taking on this role I have spent time talking and listening to those who support people affected by domestic abuse and it is sadly all too apparent that one of the difficulties we have, from the victim’s point of view, is the lack of trust and confidence in the whole system from reporting to police to trial.
"Building confidence to enable victims to report these crimes is extremely important and we need to take a multi-agency approach so I wholeheartedly support this week of action.
"It is crucially important that we do all we can to prevent this terrible crime as well as support the very vulnerable victims and this is a key part of my Police and Crime Plan. I have allocated funding to domestic violence organisations across the county and will continue to do all I can to support this valuable and important work."
The disclosure of people's history of domestic violence under Clare's Law can be triggered in two ways:
Right-to-Ask: the law will allow people to apply to police for information on a partner's history of domestic violence. The request can be made by an individual in a relationship or can be from a third party who has concerns on their behalf.
Right-to-Know: police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances for instance where information or intelligence suggests an individual is at risk of harm from their partner.
Every request under Clare’s Law is thoroughly checked by a panel made up of police, probation services and other agencies to ensure information is only passed on where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary. Trained police officers and advisers are then on hand to support victims through the difficult and sometimes dangerous transitional period.
Clare's Law is one of two initiatives being extended nationwide in a bid to tackle the emotive issue of domestic abuse.