‘Clare’s Law’ bid to protect women

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Women could be given the right to know whether their partners have a history of violence under plans to be considered by the Government.

A campaign for the move is to be launched with the support of police chiefs and the Government’s Victims Commissioner, Louise Casey, today.

It is also backed by the father of Clare Wood, who was brutally murdered in 2009 by a man she met through Facebook, oblivious to his record of domestic violence against previous partners.

Killer George Appleton, strangled her and set her body on fire before hanging himself.

The proposal – which is being called Clare’s Law in reference to Ms Wood – comes amid concern that women are increasingly meeting men via the internet with little or no knowledge of their past.

Home Secretary Theresa May is understood to have indicated she is considering the idea, which was supported by the coroner at the inquest into Ms Wood’s death.

The move would be similar to the measures offered under Sarah’s Law, which allows parents to check if someone with regular contact with their children has a history of child sex offences. The Child Sex Offender Disclosure scheme – a result of the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne – is being rolled out nationally following a pilot scheme which began in 2008 and gives a parent or guardian the right to check with police if anyone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a conviction for child sex offences.

Former Home Office Minister Hazel Blears is leading the campaign for the domestic law change and will be joined by Ms Wood’s father, Michael Brown, a former prison officer from Batley, and Brian Moore from the Association of Chief Police Officers for its launch.

Ms Blears said: “Clare’s tragic death shows how vulnerable women aren’t always protected under the current law and until women are given the right to know if their partner has a history of serial domestic abuse they can’t be sure of the risk that they face.

“By changing the law we can empower women so that they can take informed action about their relationship and give them the chance to protect themselves and prevent domestic abuse from happening before it begins.”

Louise Casey, Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, said the proposal had her “full support”.

“This seems common sense to me. Our priority should not be protecting a perpetrator’s privacy at the expense of costing a woman’s life,” she said.

Tory MP Robert Buckland, a member of the Commons Justice Committee, warned that there would have to be “strict controls” on such a system.

He said: “We’re all in favour of curbing violence against women but we have to be certain this will not lead to fishing expeditions by women demanding confidential information about potential boyfriends without proper justification.

“You cannot have a carte blanche system where people can simply turn up at a police station, give the name of a boyfriend or potential boyfriend, and expect the police to open up all the files on him.”

Ms Wood, from Salford, met Appleton on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women, including the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.

At the inquest into her death held in Bolton in May, Coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.

Police launched a manhunt after Ms Wood’s body was found at her home on February 6 2009 and Appleton was found hanged in a derelict pub six days later.