Belfast Telegraph

Clare's law is needed in Northern Ireland so we know abusive partners

By Deborah McAleese

Stormont is under pressure to introduce new domestic violence laws that would allow women to find out if their partners have an abusive past.

Victims and campaigners have said a disclosure scheme would help save lives and make it more difficult for serial domestic violence perpetrators to prey on women.

A disclosure scheme - known as Clare's law - is available in England and Wales. It was named after Clare Wood who was murdered by her former partner and means that anyone who fears a partner is abusive, or may have an abusive past, is able to go to police and ask for any past convictions or complaints to be revealed.

Women's Aid, the charity that works to end domestic violence against women and children, warned that in Northern Ireland there was currently nothing to prevent dangerous serial perpetrators of domestic violence from targeting new victims.

"The issue of serial perpetrators is a big thing for us. Over the years we always get reports of one man who has been abusive to a number of families. We have had situations where there have been three families in different refuges having escaped from just one man," said Annie Campbell, director of Women's Aid in Northern Ireland.

"The reality is, most of the perpetrators out there have not been convicted, they haven't been caught, they are not on the radar. The police would know them, we would know some of them, social services would know some of them and they are just roaming about picking the next woman," she added.

Ms Campbell said that a domestic violence disclosure scheme "could save lives".

"Not all women would want to seek that information or act upon it, but some would. It would be a very critical aspect of empowering women to protect themselves. Not to bring that, or something similar, in is actually leaving women incredibly vulnerable," she added.

Terri-Louise Graham, whose ex-partner Greg Deyzel Logue, from Duddy's Court in Londonderry, was jailed this year for a series of violent attacks on her, said if she had known about his violent past she would never have entered a relationship with him.

"I'm not saying every woman would walk away from the relationship if they were made aware their partner had a violent past, but I know that I would not have become involved with Craig. I would never have ended up almost beaten to death and with emotional and psychological scars that I might never fully recover from," she said.

Terri-Louise added: "I know other girls who have been beaten up really badly and then they found out afterwards that he had done the same with previous partners. If that information was available then at least you could make a decision before you fall in love."

Justice Minister David Ford warned that such a scheme could potentially lead to "mob rule", but added that it is under consideration.

"One of the disadvantages we have seen in England is mob rule in some cases. There is a danger of excessive disclosure that people's families end up being attacked.

"I am waiting to see more specific evidence from England and we are liaising with colleagues in the Home Office as they look at their scheme," he said.

  • Women's Aid 24-hour helpline is available for woman and men affected by domestic and sexual violence. Freephone 0808 802 1414.

Read more:

Domestic abuse: 110 cases a day in Northern Ireland... but that's just tip of iceberg 

'I knew Greg wasn't going to stop beating me until I was dead' 

'I tortured all my girlfriends ...but I'm sorry now'

How women can break the silence over domestic violence 

When home is where the hurt is

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph