WOMEN will be given the right to check on a partner’s violent past for the first time under pilot schemes being run in Aberdeen and Ayrshire.
The disclosure scheme, known as Clare’s Law, will run for six months from November, taking in the festive period – a peak time for domestic abuse.
The establishment of the pilot areas follows an announcement from First Minister Alex Salmond in May that Scotland would copy the scheme already in place in England and Wales. Named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former boyfriend in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2009, it allows police to release information on request about a partner’s past if it relates to domestic violence or other violent acts.
Evaluation of the pilot schemes will take place before it is potentially introduced across the whole country next year.
Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: “Tackling domestic abuse is a key priority for Police Scotland and one I have personal experience in leading initiatives on.
“I find it extremely encouraging that more and more victims of domestic abuse have the strength and confidence to report domestic abuse. However, we are not complacent. We continually work with our partners to seek out new ways to improve service to victims, and potential victims, of domestic abuse.”
ACC Mawson said the disclosure scheme would allow those at risk to make an “informed decision” a bout whether to continue in a relationship.
He added: “Disclosures through the scheme can be triggered by victims themselves, family members or another member of the public concerned about the victim, or 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.”
Clare’s Law, which came into force in England and Wales in March, followed the death of 36-year-old Miss Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton.
Miss Wood, a mother-of-one, had met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
According to the Home Office, a 14-month pilot in four police force areas provided more than 100 people with “potentially life-saving” information.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “It is only right that people in relationships should have the opportunity to seek the facts about their partner’s background if, for example, they suspect their partner has a history of violent behaviour.
“Tackling domestic abuse is a top priority for the Scottish Government and we have provided record funding to tackle violence against women – including domestic abuse – with £34.5m allocated for 2012-15, an increase of 62 per cent since 2007.”
Figures released in March showed domestic abuse prosecutions had risen by almost 50 per cent since the creation of Police Scotland last year.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who pushed the First Minister to introduce a pilot in Scotland, said: “Scotland could not afford to be left behind on this, and I’m glad this pilot has been confirmed.”