Posts tagged ‘Clareslaw’

October 26, 2011

Doubly depressing this time?

I have just finished reading the IPCC report into the police handling of the domestic abuse incidents involving Casey Brittle prior to her murder in October 2010.  It is pretty depressing reading in any context – a litany of missed opportunities to identify the risks she faced as a woman of 21, with a small child.  There were 11 incidents of domestic abuse involving her ex partner Sanchez Williams – who had ‘an extensive criminal record and warnings on the Police National Computer for violence’ – interesting in the context of the DV Disclosure Scheme proposal (see earlier post on Clare’s Law). Would these convictions meet the criteria for disclosure?

Other than a feeling of puzzlement that such apparently obvious signs were missed – Casey Brittle’s own expression of fear, multiple incidents, assaults in a public place with CCTV footage – and a reality check about being wise after the event, I am left with three other thoughts – none very uplifting.

Firstly, we do get some pushback on the guidance we give about using the CAADA DASH risk checklist in every case involving domestic abuse.  People ask us – every case?  Really?  Reading the IPCC report the answer is yes.  There is an understandable effort on the part of the police, led by ACPO, to reduce bureaucracy and use of the domestic abuse risk checklist has been highlighted as an area where ‘streamlining’ could be brought in.  Streamlining is being piloted in a few force areas at the moment.  It involves use of the checklist only in case involving intimate partner violence – or ex-intimate partner, and only when a crime has been committed or where there is a repeat incident of domestic abuse.  We can see the logic of the first point but have major concerns about the second two elements.  You only need to read the IPCC report to see why.  In a case like Casey Brittle, there are numerous examples of the victim not disclosing the full extent of the situation to the attending officer, and thus no crime being recorded and even failing to log it as a domestic abuse incident.  This means that the ‘repeat’ safety net does not work either.  It feels like we might be about to take a giant step backwards if this is adopted nationally.

The second thought is that there is no record in the IPCC report of Casey Brittle being offered specialist support from an IDVA, or other trained DV practitioner until the very end when Victim Support are recorded as checking whether she had given consent to be contacted.  There should be no confusion about this – there is so much research stressing the need to offer victims independent support and that this can make all the difference in terms of their safety.  Especially, in high risk cases, the contact should be speedy and proactive.

Finally, the report comments on the gatekeeping that took place to contain the number of cases that went to MARAC at no more than 40 per month.  Those of you who have undertaken our MARAC Quality Assurance process will know what we feel about this!  It is essential that we find the resources to allow all high risk victims to have their cases heard at MARAC – although extraordinarily, Casey Brittle was never categorised as high risk despite her expressions of fear, her partner’s criminal record, use of weapons, separation, and threats to kill…

And that just brings me back to using the risk checklist systematically again.  It is just a series of prompts to check on the main risk factors for repeat victimisation and homicide.  No more – no less.  But very important.

October 26, 2011

Clare’s Law – consultation open – what do you think?

Following the tragic murder of Clare Wood, calls have come about for the right of victims to ask for information about the ‘history’ of their new partners in terms of whether they have been abusive in a previous relationship and for the police to proactively disclose information about their partner’s previous DV history.  The Home Office announced yesterday that there will be a consultation to pilot a new Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.  The options for consideration include:

  1. Continuing with the current arrangements – these allow any member of the public to ask the police for information about a third party’s violent history, and the police have the discretion to share this information if it is proportionate to prevent further crime.
  2. ‘Right to Ask’ – this could potentially create a statutory right for the public to ask for information about a partner’s previous history.  In these cases, the case would be referred to MARAC where a decision could be made about disclosure and the offer of support from an IDVA would be made.
  3. ‘Right to Know’ – in this option, the police would take information about an alleged perpetrator to MARAC, where a decision would be taken about disclosure to a new partner, or other vulnerable parties such as family members.  Again, support would be offered from the IDVA.

The proposed shape of the DV Disclosure rules has changed and we think for the better.  The focus is now on ensuring that disclosures are based on risk, that they cover the victim and other vulnerable people (children, other family members), that support is consistently offered to the victim when a disclosure is made and that consideration is given in a multi agency setting.  For those of you who loyally follow our MARAC guidance on information sharing, you will know that we have always included sharing information with new partners and other family members as an action to consider for MARACs.  (More on this on our website http://www.caada.org.uk/Practitioner_resources/Disclosure_of_Info_at_MARAC_FAQs.pdf ).

Our concerns about the initial proposal was that it was too focused on the criminal justice system – we know that victims of abuse will often not contact the CJS – and that there was a real risk of false ‘positives’, i.e. that victims would gain false reassurance if someone had no convictions.  Many of the most serious DV offenders do not have convictions for a DV related offence.  We will obviously be thinking more about this and will publish our response to the consultation on our website.

But your thoughts and reflections would be most welcome.  You can find out more at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/domestic-violence-disclosure/