Officials look at violence disclosure law

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014

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Justice officials are looking at a new British law that allows women to find out whether their partner has a domestic violence conviction, with a view to copying it if it proves a success.

Anti-domestic violence campaigners say such a move would have a massive impact here. They say they are frustrated with privacy laws that mean in many cases they can't tell victims their new partners have a history of abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is also known as Clare's Law after British woman Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. It is aimed at preventing domestic violence by letting women know if their partners have a past record of violence.

Wood was strangled and set alight in her home by her former partner who had a history of violence against women.

The new law has been rolled out across the UK after a pilot in which 100 women were provided with information described as "potentially life-saving".

Justice Minister Judith Collins said while implementing such a scheme had not been discussed here, she was "very interested" in its effect in Britain and whether it reduced domestic violence levels.

"If it's significantly better than our law changes or it [results in] an improvement in the safety of women and children, then I'd be very happy to look at it."

The Government had already amended privacy laws to allow information to be disclosed to individuals if their life or health, or that of someone else, was threatened, Ms Collins said.

Labour's justice spokesman Andrew Little said his party would also look at such a measure though there would need to be safeguards, for example to stop people being wrongly tainted.

Jill Proudfoot, of family violence agency Shine, said a new disclosure law would have a "significant impact" on violence levels among those most at risk.

Shine had a database of victims and offenders from 1995 and found many victims they dealt with were being abused by people with a history of violence - in some case men who had abused six or seven previous partners.

"If we had the opportunity available or if we could encourage them to ring the police and ask for that information knowing that they could get it, it would be excellent."

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- The Dominion Post

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