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Divorce law blog

Clare’s Law introduced on International Women’s Day: What about Men?

10/03/2014   By: Sebastian Allen

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - known as Clare's Law- has been rolled out across England and Wales on March 8th 2014, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Clare’s Law allows the police to disclose information about a partner’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts; it is named after Clare Wood, a victim of her partner George Appleton who had a history of domestic violence. Together with Clare’s Law, Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) have also been introduced. Theresa May stated:

“Clare’s Law and DVPOs are just 2 of a raft of measures we have introduced to hand control back to the victim by ensuring they can make informed decisions about their relationship and escape if necessary”.

A DVPO is an order applied for by the police and made by the Magistrates’ Court that can last for a minimum of 14 days and a maximum of 28 days. The Order may:

  • Stop a person from entering, and being within a certain distance, of your home;
  • Stop a person from making you leave or excluding you from your home;
  • Require a person to leave your home.

These legal reforms are a step in the right direction, but they haven’t gone far enough, according to Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence charity.

Working alongside Paladin, a non-profit national stalking advocacy service, and the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation, Women’s Aid produced a report that called for ‘coercive control’, patterns of behaviour and causing psychological harm to be criminalised, to ensure the statutory response to domestic violence reflects both the Home Office definition and the reality of violent relationships. Their full report can be found here.

Criticism has also come from the domestic violence charity Refuge, who opposes the national roll-out of ‘Clare’s Law’. Refuge contends that the law does not go far enough in saving women, and that “saving just one life is not enough”. Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge thinks that that police reform is the key:

“The most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services run by specialist organisations like Refuge.  Let’s get our priorities right”.

Men are victims of abuse too

Men as well as women are able to use Clare’s Law and DVPOs. Although women are clearly in the majority, men are also subject to domestic abuse. The Mankind Initiative is the UK’s leading charity for supporting male victims of abuse. According to their statistics, produced in February 2014:

  • 38% of domestic abuse victims are male: for every five victims, three will be female, two will be male;
  • More married men (1.5%) and cohabitating men (4.0%) suffered from partner abuse in 2012/13 than married women (1.3%) and cohabitating women (3.4%); and
  • Male victims (29%) are nearly twice as likely than women (17%) to not tell anyone about the partner abuse. Only 10% of male victims will tell the police (27% women), only 22% will tell a person in an official position (38% women) and only 10% (15% women) will tell a health professional.

Their full report can be found here.

Male victims of abuse should welcome their ability to use Clare’s Law and DVPOs, but will still be fighting their corner to be represented in the media more equally. Nevertheless, statistics show that women are overwhelmingly more often the victims of domestic abuse than men and it is therefore understandable that this remains the priority for legal reform.

Sebastian Allen

Trainee Family Law Solicitor

Cambridge


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