Clare’s Law – Women to get the right to know partners criminal record…

Clear legal basis needed to combat violence ag...

Image by European Parliament via Flickr

Okay, so initially this seems like a good move, but take a step back for just a moment and consider one word here ‘Women’… now I guess I’m getting on my anti-feminist high horse again here but what about MEN’s rights as well? Women can have a record of domestic violence, assault and a history of violence too, don’t men also deserve the right to know this? and what about Gay rights? again they deserve the right to know if their new partner has a history of violence too.

The background of this story, which was reported in the Guardian and The Daily Mail on 16th July 2011, is based on the murder of Clare Wood; Clare was murdered in 2009 by a man she met off Facebook who had a history of violence. The idea is that now that ‘women’ are more likely to meet men from online dating sites or social media sites such as Facebook, they are less likely to know about the mans background – Now that’s not accurate for starters, you are just as unlikely to know someones background if you pick them up in a bar or through more traditional dating agencies, it’s not like you ‘screen’ people there either is it!?

The campaign for this proposal was started by Clare’s father but who is backing it? MP Hazel Blears and Louise Casey (Government Victims Commissioner), Coroner Jennifer Leeming wrote a report after the inquest into Clare’s death recommending a system of checks that have become the basis of the proposal and it is to be considered by Home Secretary Theresa May – notice again how all these are women… thankfully the Home Office confirmed (in the Guardian) that proposal would also protect men seeking new partners, but this is just a small aside in article focused on the idea of protecting women…

Now of course I’m not saying that the basic idea is wrong, but like MP Robert Buckland says in the Daily Mail…

We’re all in favour of curbing violence against women but we have to be certain this will not lead to fishing expeditions by women demanding confidential information about potential boyfriends without proper justification. You cannot have a carte blanche system where people can simply turn up at a police station, give the name of a boyfriend or potential boyfriend, and expect the police to open up all the files on him. There will have to be strict controls on any proposal of this nature.

‘Safeguards’ would apparently be in place to protect against the abuse of the proposal but just what would qualify as a ‘justified’ reason to request a person’s criminal record?  Asking about someone you’ve met online before you meet them in person should not be a good enough reason – so would ‘Clare’s law’  have actually helped people like Clare? If you have to wait till a person has shown aggression or violence towards you to be justified in requesting their criminal record then surely their background is no longer relevant? They have been violent towards you, what more do you really need to know – this should be enough for you to decide if you want to be treated that way or get out of it? With the introduction of ‘Sarah’s Law’, which gives parents a right to know if anyone with regular access to their children poses a risk (following the murder of Sarah Payne by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000) the greatest number of requests for information has come from fathers checking up on ex-partners new boyfriends – is this really where the biggest threat to children comes from? It certainly wouldn’t seem to be the case from what you read in the papers, so is this law actually being used to any real benefit in protecting children?

And additionally as I said at the start of this post, it’s not just women who need protecting from partners with a history of violence, and the lack of mention of men’s rights make this seem like another agenda of feminist misandrists!

Furthermore, what’s to say this proposal will have any impact in reducing the number of deaths from domestic violence? Both newspapers clearly report that Clare Wood had previously alleged to police that George Appleton (her murderer) had ‘harassed, assaulted and threatened to kill her’ he also subjected her to ‘sexual assaults’. Clare first reported her concerns to the police in October 2008 and was murdered in February 2009. Did she continue to see him after calling the police anyway? or did she report her concerns ‘after’ she had finished with him? the timeline for this is not given, but Clare’s friends and family were reportedly shocked to hear of Appleton’s history of violence, and her father states in The Daily Mail that his daughter ‘wasn’t stupid’ and had she ‘known about this man’s past she would have taken herself out of there in a heartbeat’ but is this really the case? Apologies to Clare’s family if this sounds harsh but he had clearly been violent towards Clare before her death, did she leave? did she tell her friends and family? or like in many cases of domestic violence was she too scared to do anything? (although she clearly reported it to the police at some point) so in reality would ‘Clare’s Law’ have actually prevented her death?

What do you think? Would Clare’s Law help reduce deaths from domestic violence? or would it just be abused to ‘fish’ for information without justification?

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