Clare’s Law: Applications under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

Family Injunctions

03 June 2024

Clare’s Law allows a person to make an application to the police for disclosure of information about a partner’s previous abusive or violent offending under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS).  It is intended to reduce violence and abuse from intimate partners.

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered in 2009 by her ex-partner, a man known to be dangerous by the Greater Manchester Police (GMP), having abused several previous partners.  Clare Wood had made repeated complaints to GMP about her ex-partner, but was fatally let down by GMP.  After her death, Clare’s family discovered the perpetrator’s history of violence towards women, and campaigned for the law to be changed to protect others.

Before Clare’s Law, individual police forces had the discretion to disclose information about potential offenders to members of the public.  It was recognised by the government that a standardised approach was needed, to ensure every police force was implementing the scheme in a similar way.

The DVDS, known as “Clare’s Law”, is not an Act of Parliament.  It is an initiative by the Home Office that was implemented across all police forces in England and Wales in March 2014.   The DVDS provides guidance to the police in exercising their powers to warn the public about a potential threat in the specific context of domestic abuse, and to disclose to the victim or potential victim of domestic abuse the information the police hold about their partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

The scheme has two elements: the “Right to Ask” and the “Right to Know”.  All requests under either element are submitted to a review panel to determine whether the relevant information should be disclosed.

The “Right to Ask” enables an individual or relevant third party (a friend or family member) to ask the police to check whether a current or ex-partner has a violent or abusive past.  If police records show that the individual may be at risk of domestic abuse from the partner or ex-partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.

The “Right to Know” enables the police to make a disclosure on their own initiative if they receive information about the violent or abusive behaviour of a person that may affect the safety of that person’s current or ex-partner.  This information can arise from a criminal investigation, through statutory or third sector agency involvement, or from another source of police intelligence.

Courts have held that the exercise of such powers by the police must conform to three criteria: ‘relevancy’, ‘necessity’, and ‘proportionality’:  (see Grace, Jamie (2015), “Clare’s Law, or the national Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme: the contested legalities of criminality information sharing” (PDF)  The Journal of Criminal Law.)

Relevancy‘ requires police to disclose only relevant information regarding the person about whom information is sought.

Necessity‘ requires disclosure only when there is a clear ‘social need’ for it.

Proportionality‘ requires that the person about whom information is sought is informed or otherwise engaged in the process, if possible.

In England the average number of applications for disclosures under Clare’s Law is  75 per 100,000 people.  Police forces in the North East receive the highest number of applications in England and Wales.  Cleveland Police receive 355 application per 100,000 people, the highest in England and Wales.

Women’s Aid, who help women who are looking for support to leave abusive relationships, have said one of the first things they ask women who phone them for help is whether they have used Clare’s Law. In most cases, the women have never heard of it.   Women’s Aid helps women make applications under Clare’s Law every week.

Clare’s Law has been described as a useful tool in cases of domestic abuse which enables the victims or the police take a proactive approach to reveal the background of prospective partners.  However, it has been argued that Clare’s Law does little reduces the rate of homicide due to intimate partner violence, does not address the root problems associated with intimate partner violence, and effectively puts the onus on the victim to remove themselves from an abusive relationship.

It is not clear whether disclosures made under Clare’s Law induce  recipients to seek to leave their partner or seek further assistance.  Some women may not want to know information about their partners’ past, or choose to remain in a relationship despite receiving such information.  Others lack the support from those around them to leave an abusive relationship, and, let us not forget, there are many examples of an ongoing lack of effective policing in cases of domestic violence.

Several police forces have been criticised for not properly implementing the scheme, thereby putting women at risk.  (Wiltshire police were forced to apologise in October 2023 after it was revealed that they had failed to properly assess thousands of applications under the scheme, resulting in two women being harmed when they could have been protected:

A request for information under Clare’s Law requires an application.  You will need the person’s full name, date of birth and address.   Applications can be made to your local police station, or via your local police force’s website or by ringing 101.  Alternatively, a link to make such an application via the police UK website can be found here:

For further information:


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