Father welcomes Clare's Law rollout

A father from Yorkshire whose daughter was murdered by an ex-boyfriend has welcomed a law allowing access to a partner's background.

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Home Secretary: Policing change needed 'urgently'

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced she will chair a new national monitoring group in response to one of the key recommendations made by the inspectors, to ensure every police force overhauls its approach to domestic violence.

"There needs to be action, and it needs to happen urgently," she told ITV News.

"What we see from this report is that the police have not been dealing with victims properly, they've not been dealing with domestic violence cases properly, and that needs to change," she added.

Abuse victims 'at unnecessary and avoidable risk'

Her Majesty's chief inspector of constabulary for England and Wales Tom Winsor pictured in 2011. Credit: PA

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: "Domestic abuse casts a terrible blight on the lives of very many people, and can have tragic consequences.

"In too many police forces we found there were serious weaknesses in services, which are putting victims at unnecessary and avoidable risk."

He added: "Domestic abuse is not only about violence, it is about fear, control and secrecy.

"It is essential that the police make substantial reforms to their handling of domestic abuse, including their understanding of the coercive and psychological nature of the crime as well as its physical manifestations."

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'Alarming weaknesses' in domestic violence policing

Greater Manchester, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Gloucestershire Police forces were of particularly serious concern.

Thousands of domestic violence victims are being failed by police forces across England and Wales due to "alarming and unacceptable weaknesses" in the way cases are investigated, inspectors have found.

In a damning report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said only eight out of the 43 forces responded well to domestic abuse and the most vulnerable victims faced a "lottery" in the way their complaints were handled.

Poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence-gathering were all heavily criticised by the watchdog, which has called for an urgent overhaul of the response to domestic abuse - from frontline officers up to police chiefs.

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'Clare's Law' created after murder

George Appleton strangled Clare Wood in February 2009. Credit: PA Wire

Clare's Law was created after 36-year-old Clare Wood was murdered by a man who became known as the "Facebook fugitive".

In the days after her brutal killing, detectives issued a warning that her ex-boyfriend George Appleton might attempt to communicate with other women via the internet

Unbeknown to Miss Wood, Appleton had a history of violence towards women and was known to prowl online dating websites and Facebook in search of partners, often using different aliases.

The mother-of-one's body was discovered in the bedroom of her home in Salford, Greater Manchester, in February 2009. She had been strangled and set on fire.

Police watchdogs concluded afterwards that she had been badly let down by ''individual and systemic'' failures by Greater Manchester Police.

More: Father welcomes 'Clare's Law' rollout

Theresa May: 'Domestic abuse shatters lives'

Today's national roll-out of 'Clare's Law' has been chose by the Home Secretary as it also coincided with International Women's Day and the launch of Domestic Violence Protection Orders.

Home Secretary Theresa May Credit: Reuters

DVPOs will enable police and magistrates' courts to provide protection to victims in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

Mrs May said: "Domestic abuse shatters lives and this Government is working hard to provide police and local authorities with the tools they need to keep women and girls safe.

"Clare's Law and DVPOs are just two of a raft of measures we have introduced to hand control back to the victim by ensuring they can make informed decisions about their relationship and escape if necessary.

"Protection for victims is improving but sadly there are still too many cases where vulnerable people are let down."

More: Father welcomes 'Clare's Law' rollout

Father welcomes 'Clare's Law' rollout

Undated Greater Manchester Police handout photo of Clare Wood. Credit: Police handout

A father whose daughter was murdered by an ex-boyfriend with a secret violent past today said he was "absolutely delighted" women across the country have today been given the "right to know" their partner's history.

The scheme, known as Clare's Law is named after Clare Wood, 36, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Clare's Law gives women for the first time the right to know if a partner has a history of domestic violence and is being rolled out to police forces across England and Wales following a successful pilot scheme.

Clare Wood's father, Michael Brown, a retired prison officer from Batley, West Yorkshire, who spearheaded the "right to know" campaign after his daughter's murder in 2009, said today: "I'm absolutely delighted."

"I must admit it's tinged with a bit of emotion and a bit of sadness but we have got what we were fighting for - to bring protection into the country for half the population."

More: Claire's Law to be rolled out nationwide

Abuse defined by more than 'physical violence'

The criminal justice system needs to focus on more than physical violence when pursuing a domestic violence case, experts said.

The chief executive of Women's Aid, Polly Neate, said in order to prevent the two deaths which occur every week at the hands of a controlling partner or ex-partner, authorities would need to take the psychological harm inflicted on the victim into account as well.

These survey results clearly reflect what our member services have been telling us for a long time: the criminal justice focus on individual incidents of physical violence cannot reflect the ongoing psychological harm caused by coercive control in intimate relationships.

We welcome the Government's recognition of coercive control in the Home Office definition of domestic violence...

Two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner; the next step to preventing these deaths is reform to allow the criminal justice system to take account of patterns of controlling and violent behaviour.

– Polly Neate
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