Two women suffer physical harm after Wiltshire Police failings on Clare’s Law

Two women were physically harmed following failures relating to Clare’s Law applications at Wiltshire Police, the force has confirmed.

More than 3,500 applications, made between April 2015 and August 2023, were urgently reviewed after concerns were made over disclosures made under the scheme by one member of the force’s staff.

The review, launched in October, came after a small number of applications were analysed and found to include failures to disclose information to those at risk from domestic violence.

Wiltshire Police confirmed on Thursday that all 3,582 applications under the domestic violence disclosure scheme – known as Clare’s Law – had now been risk assessed.

It said contact had been made with a “significant proportion” of people identified as requiring immediate contact, adding it would continue to attempt to speak to a small number of outstanding people where safe to do so.

The review identified 25 failures in the service, with two of these failures resulting in non-fatal physical harm to two adult women.

Of the other failures, it is believed 11 are administrative failures and 12 are service failures, for example where information should have been disclosed or where inadequate research was undertaken.

One member of police staff remains suspended from Wiltshire Police and is the subject of an independent investigation for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Chief Constable Catherine Roper said: “I was clear when I announced our review in October – this is a catastrophic service failure.

“We let many people down and we now know that our failures may have contributed to at least two people being harmed.

“I am so sorry – I remain appalled that this ever happened and it rightly sent shockwaves throughout our organisation.

“From the moment this came to light, I ensured dedicated resources were put in place to work around the clock to understand where we have failed, who might be at risk as a result of these failures and the urgent action we needed to take.”

In total, Wiltshire Police has made four referrals to the IOPC, including the initial report.

Two of these are linked to failures where harm has been caused and the third relates to the organisational response of two previous IOPC referrals involving the same staff member in 2019 and 2020.

Wiltshire Police said 45 members of staff had been moved into the review team, supported by a large number of other officers from across the force.

Ms Roper added: “The completion of 3,582 risk assessments reassures me that we are now able to identify the people who require our immediate support.

“However, I appreciate that this is completion of work which our communities rightly expected us to have done properly the first time around.

“I know we have badly let you down, but I ask again for your trust and urge you to come forward if you have any concerns or information regarding people at risk of domestic abuse.

“We have put more scrutiny in place than we’ve ever had into both the ongoing review but also the team who are assessing new Clare’s Law applications.”

The force added that it was “fully engaged” with the College of Policing and is now part of a national team reviewing how police forces apply the Clare’s Law scheme legislation.

Clare’s Law, which was rolled out in England and Wales in 2014, was created by Michael Brown following the death of his daughter Clare Wood, 36, from Yorkshire.

Ms Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009. An inquest into her death revealed that Appleton had a history of violent behaviour against women, which Ms Wood was not informed of.

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