Lancashire Police deluged with Clare's Law requests about potential abusers

Big rise in calls for help to identify potentially abusive partners

By Mike Hill
Friday, 26th March 2021, 3:45 pm

More than 1,000 requests for information about potential abusers were handled by Lancashire police in a year.

Known as Clare’s Law, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme allows police to share someone’s criminal history with their current partner if they feel they are at risk.

There has been a rise in the number of people turning to the national scheme for information in the area, where domestic abuse rates have also grown since 2019.

Lancashire police deal with more than 1,000 Clare's Law requests

Named in memory of Clare Wood, who was killed by a former partner police knew to be dangerous, Clare’s Law has two elements.

Right to Ask allows the public to request disclosure from police about a potential abuser while Right to Know sees officers seek permission to share information with someone about their partner.

Data from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services shows that Lancashire officers submitted 403 applications in the year to March 2020 under Right to Know and 281 were approved in that time, the equivalent of 70 per cent.

The public were less successful, with 785 Right to Ask applications submitted and 376 disclosures approved – around 48 per cent.

Unsuccessful applications include those where there is nothing to disclose, that do not meet the eligibility criteria or where the applicant withdraws the request.

Women’s Aid said the variation in disclosure rates for forces across England and Wales - which range from 12 per cent to more than 80 per cent for both parts of the scheme - shows a “very worrying lack of consistency” that could impact upon the safety of those at risk.

Decisions are taken by a multi-agency panel and applicants must sign confidentiality agreements before information is shared. Disclosures are restricted to the suspected abuser’s partner, though a third party can apply on their behalf.

Information can be provided if the subject has been convicted, cautioned or reprimanded for violent or abusive offences or if safeguarding authorities hold intelligence to suggest they are a risk to their partner.

Sarah Davidge from Women’s Aid highlighted difficulties in prosecuting domestic abuse and said: “Most women do not report it to the police.

“The Right to Ask scheme enables people to ask for information to be shared if they are concerned their partner had been abusive in the past.

“In 2020, only 37 per cent of applications to this scheme resulted in a disclosure.

“Many women who were worried about their partner’s behaviour received, therefore, what may be perceived as confirmation that their partner’s previous behaviour was not a cause for concern.

“This can bring a false sense of security, and crucially, a missed opportunity to offer support and signposting.”

Clare’s Law applications increased in Lancashire, from 1,083 in the year to March 2019 to 1,188, while the overall disclosure rate stayed the same at 55 per cent.

At the same time, the number of domestic abuse crimes in the area fell to 21,474 from 21,897.

At the same time, the number of domestic abuse crimes in the area fell to 21,474 from 21,897.

National figures show more than 20,000 Clare’s Law requests were made in the year to March 2020. In 2019, there were just over 13,700.

Of those, applications from the public almost doubled, from around 6,500 in 2019 to just over 11,500.

However, disclosure rates across England and Wales dropped – the equivalent of 43 per cent of applications resulted in disclosure in 2020, compared to 48 per cent the previous year.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “As part of the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill we are putting the guidance on which the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is based into statute.

“This will place a duty on the police to apply the guidance unless there is good reason not to and will strengthen the visibility and consistent operation of the scheme.”