Refuge opposes national roll-out of domestic violence disclosure scheme known as ‘Clare’s Law’

National domestic violence charity Refuge today expresses grave concerns over the national roll-out of the domestic violence disclosure scheme known as ‘Clare’s Law’.


Every week two women are killed by current or former partners in England and Wales.  Evidence of serious state failure in an alarming number of domestic homicide cases has been unearthed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as well as a number of homicide inquests, Domestic Homicide Reviews and serious case reviews.  In light of this, Refuge believes that precious resources would be better spent on improving the basic police response to victims of domestic violence.

Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to domestic violence, to investigate why so many women and children are still not getting the support and protection they deserve.

Head shot approved as of March 2012Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:

“Clare’s Law sounds good on paper, but in reality it will do very little to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence in this country.

“Some people will say that if Clare’s Law saves just one life, it is worth it.  But let’s be clear – two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales.  Saving just one life is not enough.

“Refuge supports 3,000 women and children experiencing domestic violence on any given day.  We also work closely with families whose loved ones have been killed by current or former partners.  In many of these cases there has been evidence of shocking failure on the part of the police and other state agencies.  Just last month, an inquest into the deaths of Rachael and Auden Slack found that Derbyshire Police made a number of failings that contributed to their tragic deaths.

“Rachael and Auden’s case is not a one-off.  The list of women and children who have been failed by the police and other state agencies is sickeningly long: Maria Stubbings, Sabina Akhtar, Colette Lynch, Clare Wood, Christine and Shania Chambers, Jeanette Goodwin, Casey Brittle – to name a few.

“How can a new disclosure scheme be a priority when the police cannot even get the basics right?

“Domestic violence is also chronically under-reported, with only 23% of victims reporting their experiences to the police.  This means that the vast majority of perpetrators are never known to the police.  If a woman inquires about her partner under the new disclosure scheme, she may be told that he has no history of violence, she may then believe that she is safe, but this does not necessarily mean that she will be safe – possibly quite the reverse.

“And what will happen if a woman is told that her partner does have a history of violence?  Will she be expected to pack her bags and leave straight away?  At Refuge, we know that it isn’t that simple.  Leaving a violent partner is an incredibly difficult step to take.  It is also extremely dangerous – women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner.  And if women do leave, where are they supposed to go?  Refuges are closing up and down the country because of huge funding cuts.

“Clare’s Law may help a few individuals – but domestic violence is a huge social issue with a massive death toll.  We need to help the majority of victims – not the few.  The most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services run by specialist organisations like Refuge.  Let’s get our priorities right.”