Belgium’s Institute for Equality between Women and Men has called on the government to adopt its own version of Clare’s Law, which allows police to disclose a person’s history of domestic violence to others who may be at risk.
Clare’s Law was introduced in England and Wales in 2014, named after Clare Woods, who died at the hand of her partner, who was known to be dangerous. Since then it has spread to the other parts of the UK, as well as Australia and Canada.
The law allows police to reveal a person’s history of domestic violence in a case where someone else may be at risk. For example, a man with a history who now has a new partner. Or vice versa, of course.
"We should seriously think about whether we should not make that possible," deputy director of the institute Liesbet Stevens told last night’s Pano report on partner violence.
“There are many stories of perpetrators who commit serial partner violence,” she said.
A system such as in the United Kingdom could then ensure that the alarm bells go off sooner.
Sarah Schlitz (Ecolo) is secretary of state for gender equality. She described the proposal as ‘negotiable’.
“We are open to any measure that can avoid future victims. We look at a foreign example from that perspective, but we also have obvious concerns. For example, we also have to respect the privacy of those involved," she said.
The British law – and its derivatives in Australia and Canada – includes the right to information: the right to ask and the right to know. The means that on the one hand a person can approach the police to ask about a third party. And on the other that the police can take the initiative to inform someone who may be at risk of the circumstances of which they may not be aware.
Both of those provisions could clash with Belgium’s privacy laws, but without them, it is difficult to see how Clare’s Law could be made truly effective here.