Wiltshire police are currently reviewing over 3,500 Clare’s Law applications filed between April 2015 and 2023 after discovering instances of incorrect or incomplete information provided.
In light of these revelations, one staff member has been suspended. The Chief Constable of Wiltshire police, Catherine Roper, acknowledged the failure to disclose critical information that could have safeguarded domestic violence victims and offered an apology. She urged anyone in immediate danger to call 999. Philip Wilkinson, the police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire, said:
“These failures by Wiltshire police to carry out its duty and to protect those at risk of domestic or sexual violence is truly shocking. There are no words which can convey how appalled I am.
I am horrified at the prospect there may be more victims of domestic or sexual assault who could have been safeguarded by the force.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) initiated an investigation into Wiltshire police’s handling of Clare’s Law following an incident in which a woman was attacked by television extra Oliver Cox in December 2018. The woman had sought a Clare’s Law check on Cox, but was informed that there were no concerns in his past. Subsequently, it was revealed that Cox had a documented history of domestic abuse. The IOPC’s 2021 findings highlighted that a researcher responsible for Clare’s Law applications lacked direct access to the police national database, causing delays in obtaining essential information.
A new IOPC investigation, initiated in September, addresses concerns raised by Wiltshire police about a staff member’s actions in handling Clare’s Law cases. Chief Constable Roper acknowledged the failures and announced an urgent audit of Clare’s Law applications made to the police force since April 2015, coinciding with the staff member’s tenure in the department. Roper said:
“The total number of applications made to us between April 2015 and the end of August 2023 is just over 3,500. We have allocated dedicated resources to review every application made to us since April 2015. Where we feel there is any risk to any individual, we will be attempting to contact the applicants.
As we work to fully understand the extent of these failures … it is vital that we are honest and transparent with our communities and so are reaching out to explain the current situation. I would like to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly apologise on behalf of the organisation to anyone we have let down.”
The IOPC said:
“We are examining police records and documentation to investigate whether the relevant applications were handled in accordance with local and national policies. We are also considering the staff member’s training history.”
Clare’s Law was introduced in England and Wales in 2014 after the tragic murder of Clare Wood, a 36-year-old woman, by her former boyfriend George Appleton in 2009, who had a history of violence unknown to Clare.