Disclosure of Criminal Records – could it prevent domestic abuse?
In 2009 Clare Wood was murdered by her partner whom she had met through a social networking website. She did not know him before hand and was completely unaware of documented violence towards his earlier partners. Following Clare’s death her father campaigned for rights for people to know a partner’s criminal past to enable them to make an informed decision about whether to continue or terminate a relationship. As a result of his campaign The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme was created. Its aim is to introduce recognised and consistent procedures for disclosing information which will enable the partner of a previously violent individual to make informed choices about whether and how they take a relationship forward. This is not yet law but is a scheme which has been piloted in certain areas. Nottinghamshire is one such area.
So, how does it work? If you are in a relationship and you are worried that your partner may have been abusive in the past or you are concerned that someone you know is in a relationship and is at risk of domestic violence then you are entitled to contact the police. The police will then carry out checks using their own database but also information from other agencies to gather as much information as possible about that person. The police will then make a decision as to whether a valid concern exists. That being the case an assessment will then be made as to whether disclosure is lawful, necessary and proportionate to rebut the general presumption that details about a person’s previous convictions are confidential. If that test is satisfied then the question becomes what should be disclosed and to whom. Following a request, the results of the decision whether to disclose or not will be recorded and retained.
This pilot scheme follows a successful public consultation with responses from a wide range of high profile organisations. It does however remain to be seen whether or not after the pilot finishes in September 2013 it will be introduced on a national basis.