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Ford considering new domestic violence law

By Deborah McAleese

Published 06/02/2016

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

A new domestic violence law, which would enable people to check the police record of their partners, is currently being considered.

Justice Minister David Ford has launched a public consultation into the potential introduction of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - known in the UK as Clare's Law - in a bid to tackle domestic abuse.

The disclosure scheme would allow the police to disclose information on request about a partner's previous history of domestic violence or violent acts.

Such a law is intended to provide information that could protect someone from being a victim of attack.

The scheme was introduced several years ago in England and Wales following the death of Clare Wood, who was murdered in 2009 by her ex-boyfriend. Afterwards it emerged the killer had a record of violence against women.

Last year, six murders in Northern Ireland had a domestic abuse motivation, according to the charity Women's Aid.

And according to police statistics the PSNI responds to a domestic incident every 19 minutes of every day.

The consultation will also look at whether a specific offence to capture patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships should be introduced in law.

This would provide an additional charging option to police where there is continuous or repeated coercive or controlling behaviour.

Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and go to the toilet.

Calls from victims and campaigners for the introduction of a disclosure scheme and the criminalisation of coercive control have been repeatedly backed by the Belfast Telegraph.

Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said such measures "would enhance protection for victims of domestic violence".

The SDLP MLA added: "I have been calling for this for some time.

"I very much welcome the fact that the consultation has begun and I would encourage people to respond. This is a very important issue."

Mr Ford added: "Domestic violence and abuse happens every day in homes across Northern Ireland.

"As Justice Minister I am committed to doing all I can to tackle this serious issue.

He added: "These horrendous crimes will not be tolerated in our society and I can assure those affected that my Department will continue to take measures to protect victims and improve the support and services that they are entitled to receive."

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