Salford Murder Prompts New Domestic Violence Law

The murder of a Salford woman could prompt a new law to protect women from domestic violence.

Women could be given the right to know whether their partners have a history of violence under plans to be considered by the Government.

A campaign for the move is to be launched with the support of police chiefs and the Government's Victims Commissioner, Louise Casey, tomorrow.

It is also backed by the father of Clare Wood, who was brutally murdered in Salford in 2009 by a man she met through Facebook, oblivious to his record of domestic violence against previous partners.

The killer, George Appleton, killed her and set her body on fire at her home in Salford in 2009 before hanging himself in woods, near Manchester, a few days later

The proposal, which is being called Clare's Law in reference to Ms Wood, comes amid concern that women are increasingly meeting men via the internet with little or no knowledge of their pasts.

According to the Mail on Sunday, which disclosed the proposal, Home Secretary Theresa May has indicated in a letter that she is considering the idea.

Former Home Office minister Hazel Blears is leading the campaign for the law change and will be joined by Ms Wood's father, Michael Brown, and Brian Moore from the Association of Chief Police Officers for its launch.

Ms Blears said: "Women in Clare's situation often are unaware of their partner's previous relationships and this can mean they start a relationship with someone with no idea if they have a violent past.

Clare's tragic death shows how vulnerable women aren't always protected under the current law and until women are given the right to know if their partner has a history of serial domestic abuse they can't be sure of the risk that they face.

By changing the law we can empower women so that they can take informed action about their relationship and give them the chance to protect themselves and prevent domestic abuse from happening before it begins.''

Louise Casey, Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, said the proposal had her "full support''.

"This seems common sense to me. Our priority should not be protecting a perpetrator's privacy at the expense of costing a woman's life,'' she said.

However, Tory MP Robert Buckland, a member of the Commons Justice Committee, warned that there would have to be "strict controls'' on such a system.

He told the Mail on Sunday: "We're all in favour of curbing violence against women but we have to be certain this will not lead to fishing expeditions by women demanding confidential information about potential boyfriends without proper justification.

You cannot have a carte blanche system where people can simply turn up at a police station, give the name of a boyfriend or potential boyfriend, and expect the police to open up all the files on him.''

The Home Office said it was committed to doing all it could to protect victims of domestic violence and would "always consider what more can be done''.

"Clare's death was a tragic incident and it's important that lessons are learnt,'' a spokesman said.