Clare’s Law – Let’s talk about Manchester

Becky Ayres, killed on the 6th March 2014,  is the second woman in Greater Manchester to have been stabbed by a partner/ex-partner this year following the stabbing of Caroline Finegan in January.  Last year, 5 women in Manchester were killed by a partner/ex-partner and 3 women were killed by their sons. The year before, 2012, 4 women were killed by a partner/ex.  That’s 14 women in Manchester killed through men’s violence in two years.

Greater Manchester Police were piloting the domestic violence disclosure scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, from September 2012 to September 2013.  Clare’s Law allows people – of course most of them will be women – to ask the police to check whether a partner – of course most of them will be men – has a violent past. If police checks show that a ‘person’ may be at risk of domestic violence from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. The pilot was also supposed look at how the police could proactively release information (‘right to know’) to protect a ‘person’ from domestic violence where lawful, necessary and proportionate.

Linzi Ashton was murdered by Michael Cope nine months in to the Clare’s Law pilot.  We know that Greater Manchester Police knew that Cope was being violent to Linzi, that he had raped her and strangled her.  Through the court we have also learned that he had a known history of violence to two former partners as well as other convictions for violent crimes.  It appears to me that there was ample evidence to suggest that the police should have shared information about Cope with Linzi and should have realised the danger that she was in. Whether they did so or not, Linzi is dead and suffered a brutal painful death.  After her death, there were 108 injuries on Linzi’s body, there were fractures to her right forearm, left elbow, neck, her nose was broken, there were ligature marks to her throat, as well as a cut along her throat. She had been punched, kicked, stamped on, cut with a blade, beaten with a metal pole and strangled with a cable tie.

During the pilot of Clare’s Law, as well as Linzi Ashton, the following women were killed through men’s violence:  Jabeen Younis, 32 was stabbed 19 times by her husband Jahangir Nazar;  Marianne Stones, 58, was strangled by her son Paul Stones, she also had a cut to the nose and bruising on her eye, arms and tongue;  and Zaneta Kindzierska, 32 was stabbed by her husband Krzysztof Kindzierski.  The body of Rania Alayed, 25 has not been found.   Her husband and brother-in-law have been charged with her murder. They both deny the charges and will face trial in April.

The IPCC is investigating Greater Manchester Police’s contact with Linzi Ashton before her death.  I fully expect to see a report showing that ‘lessons have been learned’.   I’m sick of reading that lessons have been learned whilst still women are being killed by violent men.

The basic principle of allowing women to find out if a partner/prospective partner has a violent history is sound.  I’ve spoken to several women who have had violent relationships who have told me that they think it would have made a difference to them, to have what we might call ‘warning signs’ confirmed. But Clare’s Law needs to be resourced and that means investment in, not cuts to, specialist women’s services.

I’m concerned that the government is going for quick fixes and headlines.  The number of women killed though domestic violence has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story.  Approximately one quarter of women killed though men’s violence over the last two years have not been killed by a partner or former partner. The Government has a strategy to end violence against women and girls within which it states that: “The causes and consequences of violence against women and girls are complex. For too long government has focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue” and yet its actions do not match that commitment.  I launched my campaign ‘counting dead women’ to highlight the extent of the problem of fatal male violence against women and to urge the government to do more to stop this happening.  We need changes to the Criminal Justice System for sure, but we need so much more than that.

Clare’s Law, during its pilot in Manchester, did not prevent the deaths of Linzi Ashton, Jabeen Younis, Marianne Stones, Zaneta Kindzierska and Rania Alayed. Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Quick fixes are not the solution.  Clare’s Law, may make a difference to some women who request information, but it’s not enough.  I want to see changes to show that lessons really have been learned and that things are going to be different.  Until then and until the government admits the seriousness of the problem and properly commits to doing  everything it can to understand and end male violence, women will continue to be beaten, raped, abused, controlled and killed by men.

In memory of

Becky Ayres

24

06 March 2014

Caroline Finegan

30

16 January 2014

Jabeen Younis

32

19 April 2013

Marianne Stones

58

09 June 2013

Zaneta Kindzierska

32

16 June 2013

Linzi Ashton

25

29 June 2013

Rania Alayed

25

Olwen Dohoney

86

12 November 2013

Aisha Alam

49

22 November 2013

Glennis Brierley

64

14 December 2013

Leanne McNuff

24

11 March 2012

Kelly Davies

31

02 June 2012

Razu Khanum

38

08 June 2012

Esther Aragundade

32

26 June 2012

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Clare’s Law: the domestic violence disclosure scheme

The basic principle of allowing women to find out if a partner/prospective partner has a violent history is sound.  I’ve spoken to several women who have had violent relationships who have told me that they think it would have made a difference to them, to have what we might call ‘warning signs’ confirmed.

But I have a number of concerns:

  • Most domestic violence is not reported to the police, estimates vary but it is thought that only 24-40% of domestic violence is reported to the police, so the possibility of false negatives is high, “no history on record” is not the same as “no history” or “no risk”.  Women are psychologically undermined through domestic violence, they learn to question and doubt themselves, being told that a  man who is showing signs of coercive/aggressive/violent behaviour has no record, may make a woman more likely to doubt what is happening or to blame herself.
  • Will there be sufficient specialist help available if a woman finds out a man has a violent history? We know that specialist services are facing unprecedented cuts. Women’s Aid research has shown that in 2013 there are 21 fewer specialist refuge providers in 2013 than there were in 2010.
  • What if she has children? (By him or a previous partner)  Will there be pressure on her to leave from social services or face child safeguarding enquiries?
  • If she doesn’t leave and is killed, will agencies use the fact that she knew as a way of absolving themselves of any responsibility?
  • What happens to the man? Presumably, if the woman chooses to leave him, he will simply move on to another relationship. Are perpetrator programmes available?
  • Will a woman be pressured to report a crime if she wants to use the scheme? Not all women want to and pressurising a woman to take action before she is ready could put her at further risk.

Clare’s Law needs to be resourced and that means investment in, not cuts to, specialist women’s services.

I’m concerned that the government is going for quick fixes and potential headlines.  The number of women killed though domestic has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story.  It’s being reported today that 88 women were killed through domestic violence last year, but I’ve counted 120 women killed through men’s violence, including 16 women who were killed by their sons.  Clare’s Law would not have helped them. We’re not being told the whole story about men’s fatal violence against women.  A long term, wide reaching approach is needed.  Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Quick fixes are not the solution.  Clare’s Law, may make a difference to some women who request information, but it’s not enough.