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07-17-11, 12:22 PM #1
Britain considering law to allow police to warn those dating partners with histories of violent crimeA proposal for a "Clare's law' – after 36-year-old Clare Wood, who met her murderer through an internet website – is to be launched in London on Monday by Wood's father, Michael, and the former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears, who said May had written an "encouraging" letter on the issue. Wood's killer, George Appleton, set her body on fire before hanging himself in February 2009.
An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission later criticised individual and systemic failures in the way Greater Manchester police had handled Wood's previous allegations that Appleton had harassed, assaulted and threatened to kill her. It emerged that he had a history of violence against women.
The campaign has won backing from Louise Casey, the government's victims commissioner, and the Home Office confirmed on Sunday that it was looking closely at the idea, which would also protect men seeking new partners.
Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles, in whose constituency Wood lived, said: "Women in Clare's situation often are unaware of their partner's previous relationships and this can mean they start a relationship with someone with no idea if they have a violent past. Clare's tragic death shows how vulnerable women aren't always protected under the current law and until women are given the right to know if their partner has a history of serial domestic abuse they can't be sure of the risk that they face.
"By changing the law we can empower women so that they can take informed action about their relationship and give them the chance to protect themselves and prevent domestic abuse from happening before it begins."
Blears said two women a week died at the hands of violent partners or boyfriends, and the arrival of a national police database meant providing better information had become a more practical proposition. The trigger for release of information had yet to be determined but might either come in response to people raising concerns to the police over the behaviour of a partner or, more controversially, through the police proactively alerting people if a new partner had a history of violence flagged on the computer, even if a formal approach for information had not been made.
In both instances, the decision to release details would have to be approved at a meeting with other agencies such as the NHS or children's services, said Blears. There should be no "free for all" allowing people to go on "fishing expeditions" or try to settle scores.
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