Right to Ask vs. Right to Know vs. Modern Society

The Home Office have today unveiled its pilot scheme to give authority to the public to make enquiries with the Police into whether or not their new partner has a past history of domestic violence…. First and foremost one questions whether a person entering into the “honeymoon period” of their new relationship is going to make those enquiries without prompting which ultimately means they do not trust their new partner. Are those the foundations for a new relationship? One could argue that if you have those doubts from the outset then the answer is quite simply “No”.

Presumably you would only invoke the “Right to Ask” if there has been an incident with your new partner that prompts you to. Again one would argue that if there has been an incident that prompts you to invoke “Clare’s Law” it is reason enough to terminate the relationship there and then.

Having said all of that when a victim is faced with a domestic violent partner, quite often someone who can talk you round and influence you, a spectators common sense approach goes out of the window, you forgive and you forget until the next time… It is all well and good for us to speculate what one should do without being in that situation ourselves.

There are already options available to people in those scenario’s, for example the Police have the power to disclose certain information to a potential victim if their paths do cross or the offender is so dangerous and it becomes known to the Police that they are in a new relationship they can knock on the door and inform the new partner, the Police can also make welfare referrals to Social Services when the known offender is involved with a partner who has children.

Other options include solicitors obtaining Police disclosure on a pre-proceedings basis to ascertain risk and/or the victim can, without delay, obtain Non-Molestation or Occupation Orders from the civil court to protect them from harm and harassment. Albeit these are reactive steps by the legal system, inevitably that is the reality of a situation!

The Right to Ask scheme can only work if the information parted is put into context and/or is at the discretion of the officer who has full knowledge of the facts. Once again the onus being placed on the Police only to increase there never ending pile of paperwork!

It is said that 2 lives per day are lost due to domestic violence; this is of course against the backdrop of statistics, which can only be published on the information known to the Government and Police, a large percentage of true domestic violence incidents are never reported which is quite often the difficulty when faced with applications to Court in cases that require Non-Molestation or Occupation Orders because the victims have been too scared to report the incidents. If the victims are too scared to report incidents that have happened, what would be there comeuppance if their partner found out they had been doing background checks on them behind their backs?

The Home Secretary, Theresa May is reported to have said in October 2011;

“This scheme would be based on recognised and consistent processes that could enable new partners of previously violent suspects to know more about their partner’s history of abuse.

“They could then make informed choices about how and whether they take that relationship forward.”

In reality the serious domestic violent suspects or offenders are not rational people, they do not accept in most cases that they have done wrong, without professional help they cannot make informed choices, accept how their behaviour has affected others or reflect on the seriousness of the situation. Similarly the new partner, it is expected will seek out this informaiton in confidence during a honeymoon period of the relationship and will decide at that stage if they should continue to be in a relationship with that person; we do not live in an ideal world where informed choices are made but where 9 times out of 10 the choices made are those made by the heart rather than the head, we do not come with instruction manuals or our Police record and credit history stapled into our gym clothes, perhaps that will be the next pilot scheme?

Will Clare’s Law make a significant change to the victims of domestic abuse? In an ideal world perhaps, in reality, unlikley.


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