Worried someone you know has a history of domestic violence? Ask.
Worried someone you know has a history of domestic violence? Ask.

The Department of Justice and Police Service of Northern Ireland have joined forces to remind the public they have a ‘Right to Ask’ if they are worried that someone they know might have a history of domestic abuse.

The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVADS) is operated by the police and allows enquiries to be made about partners, ex partners or someone else’s partner. Revised guidance has been published on DoJ and Police Service of Northern Ireland websites.

The guidance has been updated to reflect changes in legislation which now make coercive control a criminal offence. The revisions also change the current threshold for disclosure under the scheme from ‘risk from serious harm’ to ‘risk of harm’, meaning that more people at risk from domestic abuse will be able to benefit from the protections it offers. It reflects the law, recognising that domestic abuse is not just physical. The new revisions also aim to make the scheme easier to use and more accessible to the public.

Richard Pengelly CB, DoJ Permanent Secretary said: “Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for the Department of Justice, and other safeguarding statutory and voluntary partners. The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme is intended to empower and protect those at risk from domestic abuse. I welcome the changes which have been introduced and would encourage members of the public to come forward and use the scheme should they be worried someone they know may have a history of domestic violence or abuse.

“This revised guidance will also assist statutory and voluntary partners who have responsibilities in sharing information, for safeguarding and supporting victims of domestic abuse, and may be involved in the process about whether a disclosure should be made.”

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher from the Police Service’s Public Protection Branch said: “An important part of our role as police officers is to prevent people from becoming victims and this revised guidance for the disclosure scheme will help to achieve that goal.

“If someone has concerns entering into a new relationship or about their current partner, this scheme gives them a right to ask if that person had any prior convictions for violence or domestic abuse in all its forms.

“We respond to an incident of domestic abuse, on average, every 17 minutes. We know it is a particularly frightening and dangerous crime type that can affect anyone often leaving them feeling isolated and alone.

“We are determined to continue working with our partners to give victims, their families and support services access to vital information that could potentially stop abuse and allow people to make informed decisions about partners.

“Anyone suffering from domestic abuse is encouraged to contact their local police on the non-emergency 101 or in an emergency always call 999.”

Since the scheme was first introduced in 2018, the Police Service of Northern Ireland have made 288 disclosures.