New safeguards for potential victims of domestic abuse introduced

Date published: 26 March 2018

The Department of Justice has launched a new scheme aimed at helping to protect people from becoming a victim of domestic violence or abuse.

The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVADS) allows an individual to make inquiries confidentially to police, where they have concerns that their partner has a history of abusive behaviour.  This will enable them to make an informed choice about an existing personal relationship. An application can also be made by a third party who knows them and has concerns.

DVADS is similar to a scheme introduced in England and Wales, which is commonly referred to as ‘Clare’s Law’, and to a scheme introduced in Scotland.

Permanent Secretary at the Department of Justice, Nick Perry, said: “Violence or abuse in the home, in whatever form it takes, is wrong. It should never be tolerated; it should never be ignored; and it should never, ever be something a person should have to deal with alone.

“The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme is aimed at helping to keep people safe. It will empower men and women to take informed decisions about an existing relationship. It will help prevent abuse and violence in the home by providing a safe and confidential channel offering support and guidance. Ultimately, this scheme will help to create a safe community where we respect the law and each other.

“I would encourage anyone to look for the signs of domestic violence and abuse, and to apply to the scheme if they are worried about the abusive history of their partner, or someone else’s.”

Working in partnership with other bodies, DVADS will be delivered by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Public Protection Branch.

Discussing the new Scheme Detective Superintendent Ryan Henderson from the Public Protection Branch said: “We welcome the opportunity to have been involved in the development of this new scheme.  An important part of our role as police officers is to prevent people from becoming victims and this will help to achieve that goal.

“Previously, it would have been difficult for someone entering a new relationship to find out or be aware if their new partner had any prior convictions for violence or domestic abuse. 

“We respond to an incident of domestic abuse every 18 minutes. We know that domestic abuse is a frightening crime which can affect anyone often leaving them feeling isolated and alone.  However, we know that many incidents of domestic abuse still go un-reported.

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

Introduction of DVADS is considered a positive step forward in helping to address the abhorrent problem of domestic violence and abuse, which continues to blight our society.  

It will help ensure that victims of domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland are afforded the same level of protection as those living in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Notes to editors: 

1. DVADS is a non-statutory scheme, but will be underpinned by existing law which enables police to disclose relevant information in order to prevent crime.  Its operation will also comply with the statutory data protection and human rights requirements, to ensure any disclosure made is necessary and proportionate.

2. The scheme works in two distinct ways: ‘Right to Ask’ and ‘Power to Tell’. The ‘Right to Ask’ provides a way for a potential victim to directly apply to police for information. Applications can only be made via the PSNI or the nidirect website. The ‘Power to Tell’ provision allows police to act on information that may come to their attention by other means. Police will assess the degree of risk and act accordingly.

3. In both cases the decision making process will involve a number of safeguards and will be carried out in conjunction with relevant agencies. Both procedures are expected to take around 42-45 days.

4. In both cases, where a disclosure is to be made, police will meet and inform the potential victim, or the person considered best placed to protect them. Should an individual be considered to be at immediate risk, police will act immediately.

5. Disclosure information will typically be very general, indicating a risk to the person, rather than specifying the detail of any previous offence.

6. The DVADS will be promoted through a multi-media advertising campaign between March and April 2018.

7. To find out how to apply for DVADS, go to

8. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be return.

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