The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) is more commonly known as Clare’s Law after a well-known victim of domestic violence. This scheme allows police to tell a victim of domestic abuse about any violence or abuse that their partner has been accused or convicted of in the past. The DVDS was set up in March 2014 and applies to all Police Forces in England and Wales. Similar schemes also exist for people living in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
How The DVDS Works
There are two parts to the DVDS checks, known as “Right to Ask” and “Right to Tell”. Any individual or a relevant third-party such as a family member, can go to the Police and ask whether a partner has a history of violence or abuse. This is the “Right to Ask”, and if the police do find something on their records which suggests there is a risk of violence or abuse, they will then decide whether to disclose that to the current partner.
The other side of the legislation is the “Right to Know”. This gives Police the right to act on their own initiative to tell someone information about their current or former partner which could affect their safety. This might be information which has come to light through a criminal investigation, or from a related agency, such as Social Services. These rights are based on the police’s powers and duty to try and prevent crime based on a credible threat. The DVDS gives the police a very clear set of guidelines about the situations in which they should disclose information and sets out the procedures for doing so.
The DVDS system has proved popular with the general public. In March 2020, the Police used their “Right to Know” powers to let 4,479 people know about the potential violence of a partner or ex-partner. In the same month, 11,556 applications were made by victims or concerned third parties under the “Right to Ask” legislation, and in 37% of cases, Police decided to make a disclosure.
Does the DVDS Put People at Risk?
One of the biggest criticisms of the scheme is that disclosing this type of information could lead someone to try to leave a relationship, putting them at increased risk. However, experts believe that the best course of action is to provide potential victims with the information, and then support them to make the decision which is right for them. In January 2020, Domestic Abuse Protection Orders were introduced as another tool for the Police to manage the risk from potentially abusive or violent ex partners. These require perpetrators to notify the Police about their movements or ban them from certain locations.
Anyone who wishes to ask for information under the DVDS or Clare’s Law should in the first instance look online for information through their local Police Force website. Applications can usually be made by going in person to a local Police Station or by calling 101. If you are a third party, remember that the disclosure will only be made to the person concerned, not to you.