Clare's Law - The Need for Domestic Violence Law Reform

  • June 19, 2023
  • Shelby Firth


Clare’s Law is a domestic violence disclosure scheme first introduced in the UK that allows police to disclose previous abusive or violent offending(s) of a current/ex-partner to a victim/potential victim of domestic abuse. The scheme involves two elements: 1) the ‘right to ask’ and 2) the ‘right to know’. The right to ask allows a party to the relationship or a third party (ie. family, support services, etc.) to ask the police to check a current/ex-partner for past violent/abusive behaviour. The police will consider disclosing the information based on the individual circumstances and probability that the party is at risk of intimate partner violence (IPV). The right to know enables the police to disclose on their own initiative if they receive information about the violent/abusive behaviour of a person that may affect the safety of the person’s current/ex-partner.[1]

This article acknowledges that Clare’s Law can and should apply to partners of any gender. However, this article will primarily refer to women, both trans and cis, as the potential users of Clare’s Law due to the overwhelming data revealing IPV as one of the most common forms of violence against women.[2]


Creation and Early Uptake of Clare’s Law

Clare’s Law was created by the father of Clare Woods after she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend that had an undisclosed history of violence against women.[3] Clare’s Law has been implemented in all police forces in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland,[4] and several states in Australia.[5] The programs have been widely used as England and Wales received 8,591 ‘right to know’ and 11,556 right to ask’ applications in the year ending March 2020 with 52% and 37% resulting in disclosures respectively.[6]

Canadian Uptake of Clare’s Law

 Versions of Clare’s Law have been adopted in Saskatchewan in 2020,[7] Newfoundland & Labrador in 2019,[8] and Alberta in 2021.[9] Versions are also being considered by other provinces like Manitoba and Ontario. Ontario’s Bill 274 was put to the legislature in 2021 and carried at the first reading but lost on division at the second reading.[10] However, the concerns raised at the discussion of the second reading and raised elsewhere can be rebutted or mitigated today.