Clare’s Law?

Clare’s Law?

The ninth day of line-by-line consideration of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment bill at Committee stage in the House of Lords last week, which was midwife to the birth of Jane’s Law, might also lead to Clare’s Law.

Baroness Gale moved an amendment to the bill which would insert a new clause providing for ‘disclosure of information about convictions etc. of violent abusers to members of the public’. As with Jane’s Law, the amendment results from shocking events. Baroness Gale said that in 2007 Clare Wood began a relationship with George Appleton, a man she had met through Facebook. She ended the relationship after a year, but then became the target of a sustained campaign of violence and harassment. Over the next six months Appleton stalked Clare, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her. In February 2009 he strangled her, killing her before setting her body on fire. After a six-day manhunt he fled to an abandoned pub and hanged himself.

Baroness Gale went on to say: “Appleton had a long background of violence against women, including repeated allegations and convictions of harassment, threats to kill, and kidnapping one of his ex-girlfriends at knifepoint. Clare had no way of knowing this. Had she had that information, it could have saved her life.” She said that, at the inquest into Clare’s death, the coroner recommended that “consideration should be given to the disclosure of such convictions and their circumstances to potential victims in order that they can make informed choices about matters affecting their safety and that of their children”.”

Baroness Gale outlined some horrific statistics. In 2009-10 in England and Wales, 21 men and 94 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner. Over the past 10 years, an average of between 111 and 146 people a year have been murdered by their partner or ex-partner. ACPO estimates that there are 25,000 serial perpetrators of domestic violence in the country.

In response, minister of state Lord McNally expressed great sympathy with the proposal, and said that the government are committed to ending violence against women and girls. He went on to say: “However, disclosing information raises serious and complex questions about the appropriate circumstances in which information could be disclosed, particularly for the continued safety of a potential victim.” The Home Secretary has launched a consultation so that everyone with an interest or concern could express their views. He added: “The Government want to consider the wide range of views on this important and sensitive issue before taking matters further. However, I hope that she will accept my reassurance that we intend to take the matter further.”

Baroness Gale responded by withdrawing the amendment, saying: “I am sure that we will eventually get to Clare’s law.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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