Friday, 28 November 2014

Clare's Law active in North Ayrshire

The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme is now active across Ayrshire. revealed in August that the SNP Scottish Government had decided to pilot the initiative in two areas – Ayrshire and Aberdeen.  If the trial proves successful, the scheme will be rolled-out across Scotland next year.

Also known as Clare’s Law, the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme allows people to find out if their partner has a history of domestic violence.  Calls for such an initiative grew after 36-year-old Manchester woman Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009.  Clair had met George Appleton on Facebook and had no idea about his history of violence against women, which included threats, repeated harassment and the kidnapping at knifepoint of an ex-girlfriend. 

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. 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.

The SNP Scottish Government’s new Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, said the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme has been developed in co-operation with the Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Women's Aid and Assist advocacy services.  Mr Matheson noted, “Clearly, combating domestic abuse requires a range of actions and activity and this scheme is another tool justice agencies can use in their work to tackle this unacceptable behaviour.

"It is important that the practical implementation of the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse in Scotland, or Clare's Law, is tested to ensure it is suitable for Scotland's unique justice system.  That's why I am keen to see how it works in the pilot areas and will continue to work with Police Scotland to look at new ways of protecting the public.”

Anne Marie Hicks, the National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse, also welcomed the pilot, saying, “Much has been achieved over the years but we can't be complacent and more must be done if we want to one day eradicate this form of violence against women and indeed against all victims, regardless of gender or sexuality.

“The Disclosure Scheme is a positive development, as were the calls earlier this year by our law officers for consideration of modernisation of the law and possible creation of specific offences in relation to domestic abuse and distribution of intimate images.”

Requests for disclosures can be raised by victims themselves, family members or another member of the public concerned about the victim.  Police and social workers are also able to raise concerns if they feel someone is at risk.

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