The government has launched a consultation asking whether the protection of victims of domestic violence can be improved by the establishment of a national Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and, if so, how such a scheme could work in practice.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘I have been clear that ending violence against women and girls is a personal priority for me and this government’.
‘Domestic violence is a particularly dreadful form of abuse and I want us to constantly look at new ways of protecting victims and preventing tragic incidents from happening.’
The police already have common law powers to disclose information relating to previous convictions or charges to the public where there is a pressing need for disclosure of the information concerning an individual’s history in order to prevent further crime. Calls for the introduction of a national disclosure scheme have gained momentum following the tragic case of Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Greater Manchester in 2009. Her partner had three previous convictions under the Protection from Harassment At 1997.
Today’s consultation presents three options:
- Option 1: continue current arrangements under existing law.
- Option 2: a “right to ask” national disclosure scheme. This would enable a person to ask the police about a person’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts. A precedent for such a scheme exists with the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme.
- Option 3: a “right to know” national disclosure scheme where the police would proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances.
The government has already taken a range of action on domestic violence as part of ‘A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls’, an action plan published in Spring 2011 aimed at preventing violence and providing more support for victims.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders have been introduced to empower police officers and magistrates to stop offenders from contacting victims or returning to their home for up to 28 days. And Domestic Homicide Reviews mean local areas and agencies are expected to undertake a multi-agency review following a domestic violence homicide to assist all those involved in the review process in identifying the lessons that can be learned with a view to preventing future homicides and violence.
Notes to editors
1. The consultation paper can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/consultations/
2 Domestic Violence Protection Orders were introduced on 30 June 2011 and over 80 have so far been issued. They are being piloted in three police force areas, and their aim is to empower police officers and magistrates to stop offenders from contacting victims or returning to their home for up to 28 days.
3 On 13 April 2011 the government implemented section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. This means that local areas and agencies are expected to undertake a multi-agency review following a domestic violence homicide to assist all those involved in the review process in identifying the lessons that can be learned from domestic homicides with a view to preventing future homicides and violence.
4 Overall, the Home Office is providing £28m of stable funding for specialist domestic and sexual violence services over the next four years.
5 To view the ‘Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls - Action Plan’ visit www.homeoffice.gov.uk/vawg