Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland needs Clare's Law, says victim's dad

‘Nonsense’ domestic abuse disclosure scheme not available, says man who drove change in Britain

By Deborah McAleese

The father of a young woman who was murdered by her violent ex-boyfriend has joined demands for a new law in Northern Ireland to better protect victims of domestic abuse.

Following the brutal death of his daughter Clare Wood in 2009, retired prison officer Michael Brown successfully campaigned in England and Wales for a disclosure scheme - known as 'Clare's Law' - that allows women to find out if their partners have an abusive past.

Pressure is growing on Stormont to introduce similar legislation in Northern Ireland, where the PSNI responds to a domestic incident every 19 minutes.

Mr Brown warned without the legislation there was currently nothing to prevent dangerous serial perpetrators of domestic violence from targeting new victims.

Clare was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford, Manchester.

Appleton had a history of domestic violence - but Miss Wood (36) was unaware of it.

"After Clare died I just dedicated myself to getting the law changed. I had never realised the extent of the problem of domestic violence until Clare was killed. Up to 120 women are killed by their partners every year. That floored me," said Mr Brown.

"The disclosure scheme was too late for Clare but her death could now save lives through the scheme. It's a nonsense that the scheme is not available in Northern Ireland."

The scheme would allow the police to disclose information on request about a partner's previous history of domestic violence or violent acts. Last year six murders in Northern Ireland had a domestic abuse link, the charity Women's Aid revealed.

Mr Brown is now throwing his weight behind a campaign by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) for the introduction of a scheme in the province.

A motion calling for the implementation of Clare's Law in Northern Ireland is to be brought forward at the ICTU conference in Derry on Wednesday.

"The women in Northern Ireland deserve better. If Clare's Law is introduced, and it even just saves one girl, then I think it would be worth it," he said.

"For every girl killed there are grieving parents, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. It leaves an awful mess behind," said Mr Brown.

The West Yorkshire man said he was convinced Clare would still be alive had she known about the past of her ex-boyfriend, whose earlier crimes had included the knifepoint abduction of a partner.

Mr Brown said: "I never took to George, but I didn't know the extent of what my lass was going through until after her death.

"I remember when I found out she was dead. I was leaving work and was handing in my keys when I was told there was a phone call for me.

A lady identified herself as a detective sergeant and said they had found my daughter's body.

"I didn't set out to get my daughter's name in lights. I just saw that perpetrators were hiding behind data protection, causing havoc moving from family to family. It was a nonsense.

"My lass was everything you could ask for in a daughter.

"I couldn't help her, but hopefully Clare's Law can help other women."

Less than a year after its introduction in England and Wales the scheme was used 1,300 times.

Clare never know of partner's violent past

Mother-of-one Clare Wood was strangled and set on fire by her violent and obsessive ex-boyfriend George Appleton.

The 36-year-old from Salford met Appleton (40) on an internet dating site.

She was unaware he had an appalling record of violence against women, including repeated instances of harassment and stalking. He had kidnapped one former girlfriend at knifepoint.

In the months before her murder in February 2009 Miss Woods had repeatedly contacted Greater Manchester Police claiming Appleton had caused criminal damage, harassed, threatened to kill and sexually assaulted her.

Belfast Telegraph


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