Monday, 18 August 2014

Clare's Law to be trialled in Ayrshire

Ayrshire has been chosen as one of two areas in Scotland to trial a scheme allowing people to find out if their partner has a history of domestic violence.  Aberdeen will also operate the initiative from November.

The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme is better known as Clare's Law, after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2009.

Between 2003/04 and 2011/12 the rate of domestic abuse incidents responded to by Police in North Ayrshire increased by 90.5% - from 996 to 1,897 in the respective years. However, following a range of initiatives operated by North Ayrshire Council, partner agencies and support groups, the number of incidents has fallen for the first time since 2003/04. The figure dropped by 77 in 2012/13 compared with the previous 12 months, which represents a 4.2% reduction.

Despite the fall, North Ayrshire continues to have Scotland’s highest-level of reported incidents of domestic abuse. Worryingly, the Council records that the high rate of domestic abuse has not translated into increased ‘homeless’ applications for housing, indicating that in many cases victims are remaining in the home where abuse has occurred.

North Ayrshire Women’s Aid reports that in 2012/13, 95 women and 60 children stayed in local refuges operated by the charity. In addition, 588 women were provided with counselling support.

Of the new Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme, SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, said it represented “a very positive step forward in protecting the victims of domestic abuse,” adding, “It is right that people in relationships should have the opportunity to seek the facts about their partner's background if, for example, they have concerns that their partner has a history of violence.”

For Police Scotland, Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said the scheme would give people “information to assist in making an informed decision on whether to continue in a relationship”.  The senior officer noted, “Disclosures through the Scheme can be triggered by victims themselves, family members or another member of the public concerned about the victim, or by public authorities such as the Police or Social Work. 

“The decision to disclose will lie with a multi-agency forum, taking all parties’ rights and needs into account.  When the decision is taken to share information through the Scheme, the person receiving the information will be fully supported.”

ACC Mawson stressed the police will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of domestic abuse.

Clare’s Law has two distinct parts: ‘right to ask’, which enables someone to ask the police about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts; and ‘right to know’, where police can proactively disclose information in certain circumstances.

If the trial in Ayrshire and Aberdeen proves successful, the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme will be rolled-out across Scotland in 2015.

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