Women may get abuse ‘right to know’

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WOMEN could be told if their partners have a history of violence under plans being considered by the Government.

Women could be told if their partners have a history of violence under plans being considered by the Government.

The planned legislation, dubbed Clare’s Law, comes after Clare Wood was brutally murdered in 2009 by a man she met through Facebook, oblivious to his record of domestic violence against previous partners.

Her killer, George Appleton, set her body on fire before hanging himself.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the consultation would consider whether a “right to know” national disclosure scheme should be brought in, meaning the police would proactively disclose information in certain circumstances.

Proposals for a “right to ask” scheme, where an individual could ask the police about a person’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts, are also being considered, with the option of leaving the current system as it is.

Police can already disclose previous convictions or charges to the public if there is a pressing need to do so to prevent future crime, the Home Office said.

The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks, comes amid concern that women are increasingly meeting men via the internet with little or no knowledge of their pasts.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “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.”

She added: “I have been clear that ending violence against women and girls is a personal priority for me and this Government.

“Domestic violence is a particularly dreadful form of abuse and I want us to constantly look at new ways of protecting victims and preventing tragic incidents from happening.”

Ms Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend Appleton in Salford in February 2009.

Mother-of-one Ms Wood met him on Facebook unaware of his history of violence against women, including repeated harassment, threats and 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, just as Sarah’s Law gives parents the right to know of any child sex convictions of men with access to their children.

Ms Wood’s father Michael Brown, from Batley, West Yorkshire, backed calls for Clare’s Law in July, saying: “The women of this country are under threat. There needs to be greater protection.

“My daughter wasn’t stupid. Had she known about George Appleton’s past she would have taken herself and my granddaughter out of there in a heartbeat.”

Ms Leeming recorded a verdict of unlawful killing by strangulation as the cause of Ms Wood’s death and said she would report back to the Government recommending that people at risk of harm should be given information about their partners’ past so they can make an “informed choice”.

Ms Wood first called police in October 2008 after Appleton damaged her front door, threatened her with an iron and made threats to kill.

Police launched a nationwide manhunt after Ms Wood’s body was found at her home on St Simon Street, Salford, on February 6 2009.

Appleton, born Frederick George Squires, was found six days later, hanged in a derelict pub.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later ruled Ms Wood had been badly let down by police and suggested a raft of changes to force policy and procedures.

Sarah’s Law was rolled out last year to give parents the legal right to know if anyone with regular access to children poses a risk. It followed the murder of Sarah Payne by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.