Several high profile cases where women were murdered by partners who had not disclosed their violent past led to the Police implementing a trial of new legislation which has been dubbed “Clare’s Law”, after Clare Wood, murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. The scheme – which is officially called the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – has now been rolled out across the country. Similar legislation known as “Sarah’s Law” allows parents to ask for Police to disclose whether someone who has access to a child has certain convictions. So, what exactly can you find out?

Clare’s Law

Designed to protect people from partners who have a violent past, Clare’s Law is twofold. People can approach the Police proactively and ask about their new boyfriend or partner’s past police record. This is known as the “right to ask”. This scheme enables the police to release information about any previous history of violence or abuse a person might have.

Under Clare’s Law you can:

  • Apply for information about your current or ex-partner because you’re worried they may have a history of abuse and are a risk to you
  • Request information about the current or ex-partner of a friend or relative because you’re worried they might be at risk

Clares Law was implemented for England and Wales in 2014, the policy gives the Right to Ask and the Right to know.

Right to Ask, meaning that if someone believes an individual, over 16, may be a risk to a partner in the future. They can make an application to the Police for information with regards to previous convictions for violent or abusive behaviour.

Right to Know, gives the Police permission to advise anyone they believe may be at risk of future harm, information relating to previous records for violent or abusive behaviour.

Police can’t tell or disclose every aspect of a partner’s criminal record though, the legislation is limited to convictions involving violence. Women (or men) will not be told about non-violent offences such as fraud, theft or motoring offences, and this means that Clare’s Law is less comprehensive than a full DBS check.

Sarah’s Law

Named after the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, Sarah’s Law is similar to the scheme for checking partners but allows parents (or other people with responsibility for children) to ask for checks to be made into people who have access to them. There is some crossover with Clare’s Law as this could include a mother’s new boyfriend or partner. Police consider every application under Sarah’s Law on its merits and decide whether it is in the best interest of the child to release the information. Only information about Police records for child sexual offences will be disclosed under Sarah’s Law, so applicants will not be told about any other offences or details held on the record about the person of concern. Any disclosure made is always confidential, and the applicant must agree not to share the information with anyone else.

DBS Checks

Private individuals make applications under Clare’s Law or Sarah’s Law, and deal directly with the Police in their local area to find out whether anyone they are close to may pose a risk to them or to their children. Only employers can ask for a DBS check to be carried out, and this is more detailed than “partner” checks, which just look into violent and sexual offences. Private individuals have no right to find out about minor offences that partners or friends have committed, and cannot ask for a full DBS check to be carried out. Employers might carry out DBS checks at various levels on their employees, but they are not allowed to disclose to anyone else what is shown on a DBS certificate. Although there are some offences that individuals can be told about, there is lots that others are allowed to keep private.