Clare’s law – important safety procedure or another dangerous populist piece of legislative crap?

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Clare Wood was killed by a man she met online. A tragic case, no doubts about it. Now Clare’s father and Hazel Blears MP are working to bring in a law that would make it possible for women to learn about their new partner’s history of domestic / relationship abuse. This is one of those proposals that appeals to the most primal of gut instincts – the Internet is a big scary place, women know nothing about who they meet, now they can find out. That is, by the way, what makes it a populist law. It’s not hard to see why Clare’s father would want to bring this law in, to supposedly stop other people’s daughters from becoming victims like his own.

But personally I believe more care should be taken before we open up people’s private police records to, well, the entire public. Now, I know the privacy implications of this law are pretty atrocious, but considering the fact that a woman was killed, I realise many would forsake the privacy of someone else (any man?) because they believe the safety of women comes first. To be fair, if I thought this was a workable solution, maybe I would tend to agree. If it went both ways, at least.

I don’t think the exact details of this proposal have been worked out yet but for now is no mention about whether men can find out the abuse history of women they meet online (domestic abuse by women of men may not be as common, but it certainly does exist and is a real problem). There is no mention of what violations would be enough to tarnish a man as an abuser.

But of course, there is also, as far as I can tell, no mention of the fact that many cases of domestic abuse remain unreported, thus unlisted in the police database. In fact, isn’t the nature of most domestic abuse that which only escalates to the police when the abused women get battered so badly, they can no longer hide it from those around them? With a bit of luck, a man can be dangerously abusive to a GF or spouse and still appear all squeaky clean on record. If this law comes into effect, such men could actually “benefit” from the new system – women would search, find nothing and conclude the man in question is absolutely fine, when otherwise they may have exercised more caution.

In many ways, this law is no different than match.com saying they’re going to background check members in the US. It’s not enough. Not only is it not enough, but it makes people think it is enough, thus making the situation worse. Short of sending the thoughtpolice to scan people’s brains and figure out if they’re prone to murderous thoughts, there is nothing you can do that’s foolproof. As always, it’s best to educate women (and men) to spot dangerous signs, rather than open the door to some really dangerous legalisation. After all, if we’ve got our hands in someone’s private data, wouldn’t we want to be sure he doesn’t have any drunk driving offences (dangerous for our future children), public order offences or drug problems?

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2 thoughts to “Clare’s law – important safety procedure or another dangerous populist piece of legislative crap?”

  1. This is a difficult one. My motto has always been if a law like this helps or saves at least one woman then it is a good one. However, I do see where you are coming from in that it is not 100% reliable and there will be some abusers or even murderers that do slip through the net.

    The information released seems to be only their domestic/relationship abuse. Surely a woman has the right to know this information before they get involved with a man?

    If she chooses to go ahead with the relationship then that’s up to her. It is possible the guy has changed, but if not, maybe the woman will see the signs sooner.

    I do agree that it should work both ways. There are a lot of women who themselves have been abusive towards a man and men should be made aware of this too.

    As long as this law has the public’s safety as priority then can it really be a bad thing?

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