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House of Lords Hansard
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25 November 2014
Volume 757

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made since March, when the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as “Clare’s Law”, was implemented in all police forces in England and Wales.

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My Lords, the domestic violence disclosure scheme is an important tool that can prevent tragic deaths from occurring by enabling potential victims to receive information about previous violent offending committed by their partner. The Government are committed to reviewing in the new year how the scheme has been implemented nationally.

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I thank the Minister for her reply. Can she say what measures are being taken to train front-line police, in line with the recommendations of the pilot scheme that was held last year in four police areas? There were three recommendations: training on “Clare’s law” for front-line staff; developing ways of raising awareness of “Clare’s law” locally; and working with voluntary and community sector organisations to ensure that an information pack is available for the women who seek a right to ask. No information was available, but they obviously had concerns. What back-up will be given to those women who need additional support?

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My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point about the change in culture that is needed to deal with women who are terribly vulnerable and who seek an empathetic response from the police. I know that the Home Secretary is chairing a national oversight group to respond to some of HMIC’s findings from earlier last year. That group will report on its findings in December. The culture in which a woman can feel confident in going to the police and in having her concerns dealt with in an empathetic and sympathetic way is certainly important.

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My Lords, I understand that under “Clare’s law” third parties may also inquire about a suspected assailant on behalf of a family member whom they are concerned about. How many such third parties asked the police for information during the pilots? Are there more data since the scheme went nationwide earlier this year?

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I do not have information on third parties, but I can give my noble friend the headline figures. There were 386 applications and 111 disclosures were made. I can write to my noble friend on third parties.

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My Lords, has the noble Baroness taken note that minority women, particularly Muslim women, would prefer to have a Muslim woman available—someone whom they can talk to openly? Are there any provisions for women who prefer to speak to people like themselves to report such activities?

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My Lords, I can think of examples where that does happen, but to go back to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, that whole change in approach to make the police environment a far more comfortable one for a vulnerable lady is what we are seeking. I will write to the noble Baroness on her point about the specific needs of specific types of ladies.

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My Lords, “Clare’s law” is most welcome, but does the Minister agree that prevention should start much earlier? If so, will the Government ensure that all young people learn that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable through the introduction of compulsory sex and relationship education, which 86% of British adults support and which Labour is committed to? Lastly, does the Minister recognise the irony of using “Clare’s law” to, for example, tell a woman that she is at risk from a convicted rapist but then denying her a place at a refuge because so many have already closed due to lack of sustainable funding?

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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ahmad has already answered the point about the additional funding that will be made available. In April this year, the Department for Education issued Keeping Children Safe in Education, which is statutory guidance on the roles and responsibilities of schools and their staff in safeguarding children. I totally agree with the noble Baroness that we need to stop these problems before they happen and to keep children aware of what is acceptable as they grow up.

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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her response to some of the questions. I would like to press her a little further on the deep need for culture change, specifically in the area of training for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Is she minded to enable the Government to make that mandatory?

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My Lords, I cannot give that assurance from the Dispatch Box at the moment, but I hope that a change in culture will lead to a culture of what is and is not acceptable practice in terms of how the police deal with vulnerable people.

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My Lords, under the previous Administration, we had dedicated teams, both in the Crown Prosecution Service and in the police, which specifically focused on ending violence against women and responding appropriately. Are those teams still in existence at the same level or has there been a reduction? Secondly, can she give the House an assurance that every police authority across the country has implemented “Clare’s Law” so that those who wish to report or make a request of this sort are able to do so locally?

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My Lords, answering the second question first, I understand that there will be reports in the new year detailing the success of the rollout of “Clare’s law”. Certain fundings for different types of support for women and men in domestic abuse situations are committed until 2015 but I hope that, post the Autumn Statement, these will be rolled over until at least 2016.

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My Lords, in the light of the questions put today, do the Government accept that we all have a responsibility to help very young people understand that there is no place for violence in normal relationships, and certainly not in close family relationships?

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My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord. We all lead by example, whether we are parents or people in public life, and schools also have a duty so that children in those environments are somehow engaged with and led to know that what is happening is wrong.

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Would the Minister include footballers in that group of people who should be showing an example?

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My Lords, I would say that especially footballers have a duty to reflect good behaviour to young adults.

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My Lords, in answer to a previous question, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, referred to the Government’s Troubled Families programme. Has there been any increase in the disclosure of cases of domestic violence as a result of that scheme?

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My Lords, referrals are up by almost 15,500 to 103,000 in 2013-14. I am very pleased to say that 70% of those have been convicted. Convictions are up by 15% between 2005 and 2014.