People have ‘come to harm’ due to Wiltshire Police failings in relation to the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, better known as Clare’s Law.
Following an urgent review of 3,582 applications made between April 2015 and August 2023, the force uncovered 25 failures – two of which resulted in people being harmed.
One member of staff has been suspended as a result, whilst Wiltshire Police has made a total of four referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The watchdog has launched a probe and is investigating the concerns – of which two are linked to failures where harm has been caused. The third relates to the organisational response of two previous IOPC referrals involving the same individual in 2019 and 2020.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said: “Today, we can now confirm: We have risk assessed each of the 3,582 applications.
“We have contacted a significant proportion of the people we identified as requiring immediate contact. There are a small number of people who we’ve been unable to contact or where contacting them directly might not have been safe or appropriate. We will continue to attempt contact where safe to do so.
“We’ve identified 25 failures in our service. Of this, we know of two failures which have resulted in people being harmed. Of the other failures, we believe 11 are administrative failures and 12 are service failures (i.e. where we should have disclosed and didn’t or where inadequate research was done etc).
“As previously confirmed, one member of police staff remains suspended from the Force and is subject of an independent conduct investigation by the IOPC.
“We’ve had approximately 45 members of staff moved into the review team to ensure the review is carried out as effectively and swiftly as possible. They have been supported by a large number of other officers from across the force.
“We remain fully engaged with the College of Policing who have reviewed our approach in addition to drawing on support and guidance from other police forces, public bodies and specialists in domestic abuse.
“This has included working closely with the NPCC VAWG lead, DCC Maggie Blyth. Wiltshire Police is now part of a national team reviewing how police forces apply the Clare’s Law scheme legislation.”
Chief Constable Catherine Roper said: “I was clear when I announced our review in October – this is a catastrophic service failure.
“We let many people down and we now know that our failures may have contributed to at least two people being harmed.
“I am so sorry – I remain appalled that this ever happened and it rightly sent shockwaves throughout our organisation.
“From the moment this came to light, I ensured dedicated resources were put in place to work around the clock to understand where we are failed, who might be at risk as a result of these failures and the urgent action we needed to take.
“The independent IOPC investigation is continuing, and we remain in weekly dialogue with them to discuss further referrals, assist them with their independent investigation and to ensure the right level of scrutiny continues to be applied to the work we are undertaking.
“The completion of 3,582 risk assessments reassures me that we are now able to identify the people who require our immediate support.
“However, I appreciate that this is completion of work which our communities rightly expected us to have done properly the first time around.
“I know we have badly let you down, but I ask again for your trust and urge you to come forward if you have any concerns or information regarding people at risk of domestic abuse.
“We have put more scrutiny in place than we’ve ever had into both the ongoing review but also the team who are assessing new Clare’s Law applications.
“I will continue to keep you updated on this matter.”
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