The father of a Yorkshire woman murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend yesterday defended plans to give people the right to ask police about a partner’s history, despite condemnation of the proposals by a domestic violence charity.
Michael Brown said the so-called “Clare’s Law” – named after his daughter Clare Wood – would have saved her if it had been in place when she was alive.
He was backed by Home Secretary Theresa May who said the fact that two people were killed by their current or former partner each week in England and Wales showed the need for action.
But the charity Refuge warned the cost of setting up pilot schemes in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Wiltshire could outweigh the benefits.
Sandra Horley, the charity’s chief executive, said that in a time of austerity “we can’t afford the luxury of expensive and untested new schemes”.
She added: “We are at an absolute loss as to why the Government is introducing the new disclosure scheme.
“It seems to have ignored the concerns of the leading domestic violence organisations and those of Liberty. The new disclosure scheme simply isn’t supported by any of us with the expertise to judge its chances of success.”
Most abusers were not known to the police and, where they were, legislation was already in place to give police powers to disclose information about previous convictions or charges to prevent further crime, she said.
“The Government’s own impact assessment suggests that at best the scheme will only result in an annual reduction of a half per cent in domestic violence,” Ms Horley added.
The introduction of pilot schemes follows a campaign for a change in the law to help protect women from domestic abuse by Mr Brown, whose daughter was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, at her home in Salford in February 2009. Appleton, dubbed the “Facebook Fugitive” then went on the run before hanging himself.
Mr Brown, a former prison officer from Aberdeen who now lives in Batley, said the scheme “certainly can’t harm” women.
“I can’t see that what I’ve proposed or what the Home Secretary has proposed can do any harm in this country at all,” he said.
“I have said time and time again that, had this been in place and had my daughter had any inkling of what this laddie was capable of, she would have been long gone. There’s no doubt about that at all.”
Miss Wood, 36, a mother-of-one who went to school in Dewsbury, had met Appleton on Facebook, and was not aware of his horrific history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and the kidnapping at knifepoint of one of his ex-girlfriends.
At the inquest into Miss Wood’s death last year, coroner Jennifer Leeming said women in abusive relationships should have the right to know about the violent past of the men they were with.
The 12-month trial of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), which starts in the summer, will be based on a “right to ask”, enabling someone to ask police about their partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts, and a “right to know”, where police can proactively disclose information in prescribed circumstances.
Mrs May said: “The Government is committed to ensuring that the police and other agencies have the tools necessary to tackle domestic violence to bring offenders to justice and ensure victims have the support they need to rebuild their lives.
“This pilot scheme is designed to prevent tragic incidents from happening, such as that of Clare Wood, by ensuring that there is a clear framework in place with recognised and consistent processes for disclosing information.”