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Clare's Law Scottish pilot will bid to cut domestic violence

A SCHEME giving people the right to know if their partner has a history of domestic violence will be piloted in Scotland.

CLARE WOOD: Was murdered by her abusive boyfriend in 2009.
CLARE WOOD: Was murdered by her abusive boyfriend in 2009.

The disclosure programme, known as Clare's Law, allows individuals to request a check to find out if their partner has an abusive past.

It is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by her former boyfriend at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester five years ago.

A similar disclosure scheme was rolled out across England and Wales in March.

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House made the announcement yesterday at the Crown Office domestic abuse conference in Glasgow.

It came as the country's second most senior law officer, Lesley Thomson QC, called for the legislation on domestic abuse to be modernised.

The Solicitor General wants to create a new offence which would take into account the behaviour and patterns of abuse that are not currently within the criminal law.

Mr House said Police Scotland would work to launch a multi-agency pilot disclosure scheme so that individuals' abusive histories could be uncovered.

Inspector Deborah Barton, of the Licensing and Violence Reduction Division, said: "A pilot involving a number of partners, including the Crown Office and victims groups and health agencies, would allow us to properly test and prepare for its implementation in Scotland."

Meanwhile, campaigners have welcomed the calls to strengthen the laws on domestic abuse, but say there is still more to be done to support victims through the court process. It is hoped that new legislation will see coercive control, which causes emotional abuse, put before the courts in the way that physical assaults are.

First Minister Alex Salmond said he was "carefully considering" plans for a new domestic abuse offence.

Speaking to The Herald, Ms Thomson said: "The focus that there's been on domestic abuse -and quite rightly so - over the last 10 to 15 years has been aimed at increasing victims' confidence and bringing about a culture of change in the way the public regard this type of offending. It's time to recognise that yes, the criminal law can do an awful lot, but it cannot, in my view, fully encompass the type of insidious offending that domestic abuse is."

Anne Marie Hicks, national prosecutor for domestic abuse, said the changes would allow victims to "tell their story".

She said: "All of us as prosecutors have come across a lot of cases where this would be helpful. If you're living with abuse over five, 10 or 15 years there will be individual incidents but it's not as if everything is rosy on the other days. People are worn down from that and that's their life. And that's not always put forward in a court.

"Maybe one incident in itself might not be criminal but, actually, if you put that in the pattern - controls over when they can go out, where they can go, what they wear, what they eat - there's emotional psychological abuse."

Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women's Aid, said the developments were "positive" but raised concerns over the domestic abuse court system.

She said: "Court waiting times of six months in Edinburgh, and up to nine months in Glasgow are not uncommon, and this is an unacceptable delay, increasing risk to the victim while their abuser walks free. Many women withdraw from the process during this time. It is time for the Scottish Government to look at domestic abuse in the context of the justice system in its entirety."

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