Police Scotland backs extension of ‘Clare’s Law’

SCOTLAND’S most senior police officer has called for a pilot scheme which allows women to check if their partner has a history of violence to be extended nationwide.

Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House. Picture: Scottish Parliament
Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House. Picture: Scottish Parliament

The disclosure initiative, dubbed Clare’s Law, has already led to six people being given information about their partner’s previous convictions.

Sir Stephen House said there was no reason why the scheme could not be rolled out nationally when a pilot scheme in Aberdeenshire and Ayrshire comes to a close at the end of next month.

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Figures from Police Scotland show six disclosures have been made so far under the pilot, which began on 25 November.

The scheme encourages people to request details of criminal convictions from police if they have concerns about being in an abusive relationship.

It follows the success of a disclosure scheme already adopted in England and known as Clare’s Law after 36-year-old Clare Wood, who was murdered in Salford, Greater Manchester in 2009 by a man she had met on Facebook.

Sir Stephen said the pilot scheme had been undergoing evaluation and was being considered for a “quick-time national rollout”.

He said: “The reason we say that is because it has been operating in England and Wales for some time now, with positive responses from people who use it, from those groups who represent and assist victims of domestic abuse and from the Home Office and police down south. I see no reason why we wouldn’t be in the same position. The figures speak for themselves.”

Sir Stephen said at least one request for information had been turned down because a relationship had ended.

“The woman in the relationship wanted information on whether [the man] had a past in relation to domestic abuse,” he said.

He added: “We’re looking at 60,000 incidents of domestic abuse a year, give or take, translating into about 40,000 crimes. Even if we go nationwide with this, it might not make a significant dent in that, but it may. We’ll certainly look at it.

“I’d be more confident to say that on a case-by-case basis it might save lives rather than alter statistics greatly.”

Police Scotland said it had received a total of 33 requests for information under the pilot, 22 receiving a decision.

Clare’s Law, which came into force in England and Wales in March last year, followed the death of 36-year-old Miss Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton.

Mother-of-one Miss Wood 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.

Under the Scottish pilot, anyone with concerns is encouraged to fill out an online form for ­information.

The scheme is split between the Right to Ask and the Power to Tell, which allows the authorities to warn someone they believe to be at risk.

The Scottish Government is also currently considering introducing legislation which would make domestic abuse a specific offence.