Refuge opposes national roll-out of ‘Clare’s Law’

The Home Office today announced the national roll-out of the domestic violence disclosure scheme known as ‘Clare’s Law’.

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of RefugeSandra 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 death of Cassie Hasanovic found that that Sussex Police, Kent Police and the Crown Prosecution Service all failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard her life.

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

“The list of ways in which women are failed by the police is alarmingly long. Negative attitudes are rife: all too often, abused women are met with apathy, disbelief and outright hostility from officers. The recent case of two West Midlands officers caught on tape allegedly calling a victim of domestic violence a “f***ing bitch” and “slag” offered a shocking insight into this ‘canteen culture’.

Failure to properly investigate reports, collect evidence or arrest the perpetrator is also common. Risk assessment is patchy, and, all too often, police officers fail to take proactive action to keep women and children safe from violent men – even after they have been assessed as being at high risk. All this begs the question, 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 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.

Please join our call for a public inquiry and sign the petition.”