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Clare's Law trial to allow violent partner checks

SCOTTISH women will be able to check the past of their partners for the first time as Clare's Law is rolled out in the north-east and south-west of the country.

LEGACY: The law was inspired by the death of Clare Wood.
LEGACY: The law was inspired by the death of Clare Wood.

The pilot schemes will include the part of Aberdeenshire that is home to the family of Clare Wood, the 36-year-old whose death inspired the English initiatives on which they are based.

Ms Wood, a mother-of-one, was beaten to death in 2009 by a boyfriend she met on Facebook. She did not know that he had a long history of violence against women.

Under the pilots, police and other authorities will consider bids to share information about whether a partner - a man or a woman - may be a danger.

Ms Wood's father welcomed the pilots. Michael Brown said: "Anything that gives men and women another layer of protection from a potentially abusive partner has got to be welcome.

"I thought it was an absolute disgrace that my daughter could not be told about her partner's past. It then choked me to my core to learn that somewhere between 100 and 120 girls every year die in the same way as my daughter.

"For every one of those victims, there are at least two people - a mother and a father - who are suffering. And that is just for starters. The death is just the start, like a stone going into a pond. The suffering goes on and on."

Mr Brown, a retired prison officer originally from Aberdeen but now living in Yorkshire, has been campaigning for Clare's Laws north and south of the Border ever since his daughter was killed by George Appleton in Manchester.

Those seeking information will be checked out - to rule out the merely curious - and a final ­decision will be made by a multi-agency panel including police, prosecutors and advocacy groups, such as Assist and ­Scottish Women's Aid.

The pilot programmes will begin in November and run for six months, after which they will be assessed. Champions of such schemes believe they have worked well in England.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, backing the pilots, said: "It is only right that people in relationships should have the opportunity to seek the facts about their partner's background if, for example, they suspect their partner has a history of violent behaviour."

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: "I find it extremely encouraging that more and more victims of domestic abuse have the strength and confidence to report domestic abuse, however we are not complacent.

"I believe the introduction of the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland will not only provide a mechanism to share relevant information about a partner's abusive past with their potential victims, it will give people at risk of domestic abuse the information to assist in making an informed decision on whether to continue in the relationship."

It is not only partners who will be able to seek disclosures. The scheme will also be open, in theory, to family members and others - all subject to the panel approving disclosure. Mr Mawson said he believed the panel would defend the rights of all those concerned.

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