Rosie Darbyshire was so keen to dispel worries about her new boyfriend’s violent nature that she made a police request for information about him - just days before he brutally murdered her.
The 27-year-old, who had only been with Ben Topping for a month, told her family she would “prove them wrong”, after a number of people voiced concerns about Topping’s aggressive behaviour in the past.
And so Rosie, from Preston, made an application under Clare’s Law, a scheme which allows people to find out from the police if their partner has a history of violence.
But information on Topping’s violent past was not passed onto Rosie before he bludgeoned her to death - 11 days after her application was made.
Rosie’s family will never know for sure if receiving the information more quickly would have made a difference - but they are now calling for disclosures to be sped up, to help protect others at risk from violent partners.
Today, the Post joins Rosie’s family to launch a campaign calling for Clare’s Law to be revised, to grant swifter access to information and better awareness of the scheme. They have called it “the only positive that we can try and achieve from this”.
Our campaign has been supported by Michael Brown, who spearheaded the original fight to set up Clare’s Law after his 36-year-old daughter Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009.
Rosie and Ben Topping had been to college together and had reconnected via social media in early January this year. Soon after they got together, concerns were raised by others online.
Rosie’s sister Alice Hodgson said: “When she started putting pictures of them together on Facebook, people were commenting on them, saying he’s a bit weird, or he’s not good for her.
“An ex-girlfriend of his wrote something like, ‘You’ll be next’.
“We kept pushing Rosie to do (a Clare’s Law application), so she did it to prove a point - that everything was okay.”
Rosie, who knew about the existence of Clare’s Law from a previous unrelated disclosure, made an application for information on Topping on Monday, January 28.
At the time, Topping was on bail for actual bodily harm (ABH), after punching a man in the face in Popworld in Preston on May 5, 2018. He had a criminal record for violent offences and a history of alcohol and substance abuse.
Rosie’s family say that Topping was aware Rosie had made an application had been made about him under the scheme, also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, and he had told her about being on bail for ABH.
Her mum, Andrea Darbyshire, said: “They weren’t together long, but in that time he changed her.
“They knew each other from college and he made her feel good at a low ebb in her life by saying he’d always fancied her.
“She never mentioned him being aggressive towards her. In fact, she said he understood her, he let her be herself.”
Tragically, concerns about Topping’s violent nature proved correct. Just 11 days after Rosie made her Clare’s Law application, Topping attacked Rosie with a crowbar on the street, after drinking at her home in Ribbleton and getting into an argument. He inflicted more than 50 injuries on her, leaving her unrecognisable.
At Preston Crown Court, Judge Mark Brown said Topping was “undoubtedly a violent man with a criminal record for violent offences”, adding: “It is difficult to envisage a more horrific attack on a defenceless person.”
He jailed Topping for life with a minimum tariff of 20 years.
Rosie’s family are now hoping something positive can come from her death, and are calling on people to sign our Change.org petition for amendments to Clare’s Law to be looked at by the Government.
If the petition can reach 100,000 signatures, the matter will be discussed in Parliament.
The family are not critical of Lancashire police’s handling of Rosie’s case, but they want the Home Office to make changes to improve the law and reduce the 35-day maximum which all forces have to supply information.
Rosie’s sister Eleanor said: “Clare’s Law is an incredible thing, but it needs tightening up.
“It’s such a long process, but you see people getting stopped and searched at the roadside, and the police have all the information there and then. Why can’t Clare’s Law be like that?
“He (Topping) broke someone’s jaw, he was on bail for ABH, so surely it’s just a phone call to find that out?”
She added: “To get it discussed in Parliament, we need 100,000 signatures, which is achievable, but also need more awareness.
“People don’t know what Clare’s Law is when we’ve mentioned it to people. People don’t know how to make an application.”
Rosie’s family are now calling for the following changes to Clare’s Law:
• A shorter timeframe for results to be disclosed
• Clarity on what previous offences or charges would result in an immediate disclosure of information
• A call back within 48 hours of an application being made
• Greater awareness of the scheme and how to apply.
The family would also like to see a database or register for people currently charged with or convicted of violent offences, and for domestic violence calls to the police number 101 to be fast-tracked to specialist call handlers with access to the database information.
Eleanor said: “We’re not delusional, Rosie might not have left (Topping) if she’d had the response, she might have decided she was going to be the one who changed him, but she didn’t get to make that choice.
“If this saves a handful of lives, then we need to do it.”
All police forces currently have up to 35 days to disclose information under Clare’s Law if it is deemed necessary, but immediate safeguarding action can be taken if police believe someone is in imminent danger.
Lancashire Constabulary referred itself to regulatory body the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) as Rosie Darbyshire had contact with them before her death, a matter that was batted back to the force, and which is now subject of an internal force investigation.
A spokesman for Lancashire Constabulary said: “We can confirm that an application had been made under Clare’s Law and this was being considered at the time of Rosie’s tragic murder.”
Rosie’s family have spoken of their appreciation of the work of the police.
Alice said: “The police have been amazing, but they are bound by procedure and the system. Officers have told me it would be a good thing for us to push for these changes.”
The Home Office was also approached for a comment on Clare’s Law timescales and our campaign, but instead simply sent a copy of the 2016 guidance on Clare’s Law.
It states that initial checks will be completed as soon as possible and, in any case, within 24 hours to assess whether the disclosure application should be progressed and assess whether there is an immediate or imminent risk of harm to A from B. Should a decision be made to progress the disclosure application further, the disclosure application will be referred to the police’s Public Protection Unit, or other appropriately trained staff, to follow up and a face-to-face meeting should be schedules within the next 10 working days.
The policy states “the police will aim to complete the enquiry within 35 days but there may be extenuating circumstances that increase this timescale”.
In January, a draft Domestic Abuse Bill was published, which the Government says should ‘transform the response in the justice system’ to abuse, if passed by Parliament.
To sign the petition to revise Clare’s Law in memory of Rosie, visit www.change.org/p/home-office-speed-up-clare-s-law-disclosures-in-memory-of-rosie-darbyshire