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Clare's Law should be made top priority

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 27/04/2016

Ms Brown has joined a campaign for new legislation to be passed in the province which could help protect women from domestic abuse and violence
Ms Brown has joined a campaign for new legislation to be passed in the province which could help protect women from domestic abuse and violence

It is easy to understand the frustration of the mother of a young woman brutally murdered by her boyfriend at being unable to find out why he took her life.

Linda Brown went through the horror of finding her daughter's lifeless body in her home near Larne 13 years ago. She had been strangled and stabbed by her boyfriend David McCord.

Linda later wrote to him in prison requesting a meeting at which she planned to quiz him about what led to his murderous attack.

He refused, as was his right, and has since served his 11-year sentence for the crime.

Many will see his refusal to meet Ms Brown as an indicator of his callous and remorseless nature.

But Ms Brown is also angry that the authorities kept her in the dark about McCord's release from jail in a pre-release scheme in 2013 and was not told where he was living, making her fearful of bumping into him unexpectedly.

Not unnaturally, she feels that as far as feelings are concerned the dice are loaded in the offender's favour rather than towards those who suffer the consequences of his crime.

She was also not told that McCord was subsequently arrested and charged with assaulting a new girlfriend.

He was acquitted of that charge, but the jury had been unaware of his violent past.

Now Ms Brown has joined a campaign for new legislation to be passed in the province which could help protect women from domestic abuse and violence.

Known as Clare's Law, it allows women to find out if their partners have a violent or abusive past. Given the level of domestic abuse and violence in the province - police respond to one such incident ever 19 minutes - it is a measure that should be introduced here. Last year six murders in the province were classified as having a domestic violence link.

The legislation is already in use in England and Wales and was triggered 1,300 times. The old saying of being forewarned is forearmed rings true where this legislation is concerned.

Northern Ireland is seldom at the forefront of innovation, but it should be the duty of whoever becomes Justice Minister in the new Executive after the forthcoming election to make introducing this law a top priority. It would give women in particular the right to find out the violent or abusive history of their partners and judge if the relationship could place their lives in danger. What possible objection could there be to such a law?

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