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'Clare's Law' gives new rights over domestic violence
6 years ago

'Clare's Law' gives new rights over domestic violence

Clare Wood
Clare Wood's father has campaigned since her death at the hands of her former partner

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People in some parts of England and Wales will soon be able to find out from police if their partners have a history of domestic violence.


The Home Office is expected to announce trials giving a "right to ask" for information in Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Gwent.


The scheme is dubbed Clare's Law, after a woman murdered by a former partner.


But domestic violence campaign group Refuge has attacked the scheme, saying it will do little to protect victims.


Clare Wood, from Salford, Greater Manchester, was murdered in 2009 by a former boyfriend with a violent background.


The 36-year-old mother had made several complaints to the police about George Appleton, whom she had met on the internet, before he killed her. He was later found hanged.


The Independent Police Complaints Commission criticised Greater Manchester Police for individual and systemic failings in the case.


Since her death, Miss Wood's father Michael Brown has campaigned for people to have greater rights to know about the violent past of partners.


The Home Office ran a consultation on the issue last year and said it could leave the situation unchanged, create a right to ask, or a stronger right to know.

Ministers are expected to back the middle way, creating an arrangement 

similar to the right to ask whether someone who has access to your children has a history of sex offending.


The police already have common law powers to provide information about someone's background if officers think there is a pressing need to do so to prevent a crime.

'Sarah's Law'


But Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said the Home Office should start by improving how police respond to calls for help.


"We are at an absolute loss as to why the government is introducing the new disclosure scheme," she said.


"The new disclosure scheme simply isn't supported by any of us with the expertise to judge its chances of success."


Ms Horley said the majority of abusers were not known to the police and it was completely unclear whether the scheme would benefit anyone.


She added: "It is an absolute tragedy that Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-partner, but it is highly unlikely that she died because the police didn't inform her about her ex-partner's previous conviction.


"It is more likely she died because the police did not respond to her emergency 999 call for help."


The child sex offender disclosure scheme, the basis for the proposed Clare's Law, is now in place across all police forces in England and Wales, and was the result of a long-running campaign by Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered by a known paedophile.


During the scheme's pilot in four police areas, 315 applications were made which uncovered 21 cases where a potentially dangerous person did have access to an applicant's child.

'Keep it quiet': The family that covered up sex abuse
6 years ago


10 April 2012 Last updated at 10:09



'Keep it quiet': The family that covered up sex abuse





Girl covering face (model)

 'Sarah' is still traumatised by the sexual abuse she suffered as a young girl


In a church-going, happy and loving family was a seven-year-old girl.


But then, through a weekly ordeal of sexual abuse at the hands of someone she thought would protect her, her life changed forever.


Now 23 years old, the torment of the years of her uncle's abuse remains strong, along with the anger over how her family covered it up to protect their reputation and that of the Church.


Sarah (not her real name) said: "I was woken up from my sleep and carried downstairs... he pulled up my dressing gown and told me to be quiet. "His chest used to lie on my forehead. It was all quiet and then a hand would be over my mouth.


"He used to tell me to be quiet and if I tell I'd never see my family again. 'If you tell police they'd take you away', he said to me." Despite being reported to Nottinghamshire Police the perpetrator remains unpunished.

Downward spiral


Sarah has recently asked the force to reopen the inquiry in the abuse that went on for three-and-a-half years. She said on most occasions it had just been fondling, but at other times more serious sexual assaults took place.


"After about 10 or 15 minutes he carried me back upstairs", Sarah said.

The abuse only stopped when her uncle's actions were discovered by her brother, who then told their mother. Before it all began, and despite her parents being separated, Sarah recalls regular visits from her father and the happiness of her early childhood along with a sense of feeling loved and supported.


Her father's family were very much part of her early life and she spent time with them while on weekly visits to her grandmother's home. But that house was also where her uncle started to abuse her. Talking about when the abuse was uncovered, she said it had been the start of a downward spiral. "Mum burst into tears," her brother said, after he told her what had happened. "She was distraught. "Dad's family said 'we'll sort it'.


"They [her father's family] thought though, that for the sake of the family and the Church it would be best 'to keep it quiet'." He said he was prevented from speaking to police officers about the abuse. For Sarah, events then saw her being placed into care, expelled from school, self-harming and categorised as a "vulnerable teenager".


She remembers calling ChildLine and saying "I want to run away". Her subsequent rebellious behaviour has resulted in her being convicted of assault, affray and serving jail terms for drugs offences. "When it was covered up it just made me think I had to deal with it," she said. "They didn't want the Church or family damaged.


"I put it to the back of my head but then I'd have flashbacks... I go into destruct mode. "I turned into a tomboy, boisterous... it was deliberate, to protect myself from being attractive to a man."


'Very closed doors'

According to children's charities, young people are often more at risk of abuse in their own home. They say most child sexual abuse goes unreported and undetected. The charities have written to Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, to discuss the issue of intra-familial sexual abuse.


Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)said: "The experiences we hear every day from callers make your toes curl. "Abuse goes on behind very closed doors and often goes unpunished and sadly, [is] very common. "The wider problem is still within the family. Too many children are in danger today.


"Child abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse in the family, is something people don''t want to talk about, but they must." A police spokesman said: "In relation to the individual case, I can confirm Nottinghamshire Police was contacted last week and asked to look into this historic case. 


"We will obtain the documents relating to it and assess whether there is sufficient new evidence a vailable to reopen the investigation." In the past five years, Nottinghamshire Police has recorded 407 familial rape crimes.

This post was modified from its original form on 10 Apr, 21:12
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