Should Australia adopt Clare’s Law?
Clare’s Law was passed in the United Kingdom and rolled out in March 2014, named after Clare Wood who died in 2009 at the hands of her violent, abusive boyfriend. The law allows the police to disclose information about a person’s previous history of domestic violence or violent acts, if requested by their partner. Clare Wood was unaware that her boyfriend had a history of violence against women, including that he’d served two prison sentences for violence against two previous girlfriends.
In the year since, it is reported that over police have made over 1300 disclosures, potentially saving 1300 women from entering into relationships with known abusers. Anyone given a disclosure is also given support so that they can leave the relationship safely.
Australia does not have a law like this one. But domestic violence is a national epidemic with 2 women dying every week on average at the hands of violent partners.
This week the Queensland LNP advised that they would create legislation similar to Clare’s Law if they win the upcoming election. The five-point domestic violence plan being release also includes a new law to stop perpetrators cross-examining victims in courts, and a system for someone to inquire into any history of violence in relationships.
Opposition spokeswoman for prevention of family and domestic violence Ros Bates said the LNP had listened to domestic violence victims and their families and had “planned in consultation and acted to develop this tough new domestic violence plan”.
General Manager of “Working Against Violence Support Service” (WAVSS) Linda-Ann Northey has previously supported the introduction of legislation like Clare’s Law.
“We have seen many cases where repeat offenders have a long history of violence, moving from one relationship to another, and appearing in Court time and time again,” Ms Northey said.
New South Wales has in the past sought feedback on a discussion paper regarding a similar scheme. Women could request information about the potentially violent pasts of partners. NSW Minister for Women Pru Goward said at the time: “The vast majority of offenders in domestic violence are repeat offenders. Every time they get away with it, they are more likely to repeat.” She says she is hopeful an early warning scheme could protect women from entering into relationships that could turn violent.
Why Do We Need Clare’s Law?
Unfortunately, many people who enter relationships may be unaware of the domestic violence red flags that could warn them of a potentially abusive relationship. Usually, it starts with small characteristics such as raising a hand in anger, shouting or name-calling or controlling what their partner does, says or wears. Victims often hope that these controlling characteristics will disappear over time, and tend to stay in the relationship hoping for the best. Introducing legislation like Clare’s Law will allow for people to ask the police for details of their partner, warning them of any previous history of domestic violence.
Former Australian of the Year and domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty says that Clare’s Law should also include any criminal offences, not just those relating to domestic violence. Ms Batty said the Clare’s Law scheme would help many potential victims of domestic violence, and the knowledge would be empowering to women who were vulnerable.
“I think we spend all our time protecting the perpetrators of violence and I think we should be looking at what can we do to support our victims,” she said. “I think we should be giving less concern about violation of privacy and more focus on the benefit to the vulnerable people who are in a position of extreme danger.”
If you’re worried about your own relationship, we have compiled a short list of characteristics that an abuser usually demonstrates before physical, mental or financial abuse begins:
- Criticises you on small mishaps
- Must know where you are at all times
- Controls your every move. Examples include: not allowing you to visit your family or being at work outside work hours
- Gets angry when you do something out of routine
- Controls your finances
- Embarrasses you in front of other people
- Takes away things you value
- Threatens you
- Tends to blame you for their behaviour
- Forces you into activities you do not wish to do
- Very jealous
- Easily angered on small incidents
- May tend to be mean to others such as animals or people
- Tends to act out instead of discuss their emotions.
Typically, before physical violence occurs, an abuser may be showing these characteristics:
- Clenched fists
- Facial expressions that show deep anger/rage
Domestic violence is a serious situation and if you feel as if you may be experiencing it or know for sure, then you should contact specialist resources and help. It may be difficult for you to leave the situation and you main need support to do so. We can help you with the legal requirements of leaving a relationship – issuing an Apprehended Violence Order for example.
If you need legal advice about separation or divorce, please contact us today at Divorce Lawyers Brisbane for your free 10-minute phone consultation.