New support for victims of domestic violence

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Sussex Police and its partners have a new way of helping to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - also known as Clare’s Law - gives people the right to ask about a person they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, if they have a concern they may be violent or abusive.

The new national scheme allows the police and partners to consider disclosing that someone’s new or potential partner has a history of violent or abusive behaviour, under what is known as the “Right to Know”.

The scheme, already successfully piloted in other parts of the country, is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Greater Manchester in 2009.

That tragedy brought into national focus the issue of disclosing information about an individual’s history of domestic violence to a new partner.

In Sussex, police have been making plans to introduce the scheme and ensure there is a consistent and accessible way to receive and manage requests from individuals with concerns about partners or potential partners.

Trish Harrison, principal manager for domestic and sexual violence at West Sussex County Council, who has chaired the group planning the introduction of Clare’s Law in Sussex, said: “The dynamics of domestic abuse are complex.

“Although every situation is unique, there are common factors that run through all abusive relationships. Identifying and acknowledging these factors is important in preventing and stopping abuse.

“This new scheme gives us an extra opportunity to help people suffering domestic abuse.

“By providing the right information, to the right people, at the right time in the right way; we have the potential to help people change their lives for the better and to save lives.”

Each request will be researched and reviewed by police officers who specialise in investigating domestic abuse and helping to support victims.

Final decisions will be taken by the existing locally based Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs).

These regular meetings already focus on high risk domestic abuse cases and are attended by the police, local authorities, health, housing, probation, Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs), and specialist domestic abuse services.

As well as agreeing what to disclose, to whom, and how and when to do so, the meeting will also identify the best way to support anyone who has made a request, or who is being informed about concerns about someone’s new or potential partner.

Detective Inspector Stu Hale says: “The police cannot and should not manage these risks alone. The MARACs will continue to share information between agencies to increase the safety, health and well-being of the victim or potential victim, and their children. It can jointly implement a risk management plan that provides professional support to all those at risk and reduces the risk of harm.

“And now it will now also decide on the level of disclosure to the applicant under Clare’s Law. A disclosure can take place if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so. This is an important new role for these groups and we will all be working closely together to make sure it works and the right information is provided when it is necessary.

“But the scheme will work both ways. Not only can people contact us, we will also assess all information we receive and if we think that disclosures could help protect someone from potential abuse, we will, through the MARAC process, tell them without waiting for a request.

“We currently receive more than 65 reports of incidents involving domestic abuse every day. The numbers have been increasing over the past year, we think due in part to the efforts of police and other agencies to increase confidence amongst people in reporting abuse.”

Applicants can contact police at any time via 101, 01273 470101 or Police will arrange to meet them to discuss to establish the full circumstances and then refer the request.