Police refusal to disclose background checks on suspected domestic abusers is leaving women’s lives at risk, a report finds.
Police forces across England and Wales are refusing to provide background checks of suspected abusers. More than of 20,226 requests for background checks were rejected during a six-month period.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) was implemented in March 2014 across all police forces in England and Wales, which allows police to release information to protect a potential victim of domestic violence. It is also known as also known as “Clare’s Law”, after Clare Wood, 36, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Under this scheme, potential victims have “a right to ask” and “a right to know”.
The Independent reported that one woman, Hilary Stinchcombe has claimed that the lives of her daughter and granddaughter, Ella Dalby, 11 could have been saved by a Clare’s Law disclosure. Laura Mortimer, 31, and Ella Dalby, 11, were stabbed 42 times at their home in May 2018 by Mortimer’s partner, Christopher Boon. Boon had previously been given a suspended sentence months for assaulting a partner and her mother. Ms Stinchcombe, claimed that the Gloucester police had misapplied the rules and wrongly denied the family’s application.
The Observer reports that significant variations were observed in the execution of Clare’s law. The rate of disclosure in England and Wales has fallen from 47.9% in 2019 to 38.5% in the year to March 2023, with some forces fulfilling requests in up to 75% of cases.
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that Merseyside Police went far beyond the 28-day limit and took up 90 days in one case to disclose information following a Clare’s law request. Wiltshire Police Force have identified failures to disclose information dating back to 2015, leading to an urgent review of 3,500 cases.
Alex Davies-Jones, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence said that missed opportunities to protect victims of domestic violence comes at a cost of losing lives, and “far too many have already been lost.”
Domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, said that refusing applications means that “opportunities to protect victims” were “being missed”.