The scheme is open to both men and women. The person at risk must live in Northern Ireland. There is a separate scheme that covers both England and Wales and another for Scotland - more details can be found below.
How to find out if a partner has a history of domestic abuse
The aim of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme is to keep people safe and help you decide if you should stay with your partner.
There are two ways to find out if your partner, or the partner of someone you know, has a history of domestic abuse:
- You can apply online to PSNI to ask for information (this is called 'Right to ask')
- PSNI will tell you that you could be at risk, if they receive information from elsewhere about your safety (this is called 'Power to tell')
Apply online ('Right to ask) - the process
You must complete the confidential online application form to ask the police to check if your partner, or the partner of someone you know, has a history of domestic abuse. The person you feel may be at risk must live in Northern Ireland.
When the police receive your application, they will let you know it has been received in whatever way you have asked to be contacted by them. You can let them know the safest method of contact when you are filling in the application form.
Meet with the police to find out more
The police will carry out initial checks on their systems and if you are in immediate danger, they will contact you as soon as possible.
If you are not in immediate danger, they will ask to meet you, face to face. At this meeting, they will ask you for further information to support your application. They will also ask you at this point, for photographic identification.
‘Power to tell’ – the process
If PSNI gets information about your safety, they can carry out relevant checks to help them decide whether they need to make you aware of your partner’s abusive history to protect you. This can help you decide whether you should stay with your partner.
If initial record checks show you are in immediate danger, PSNI will contact you as soon as possible.
Hearing about a partner’s abusive history
Following the checks made, if you are not in immediate danger, the police, along with other safeguarding agencies, will discuss the information they have gathered.
If your partner has a record of violent or abusive behaviour, or there is other information that shows you may be at risk, the police will decide who to tell, face to face. While this will normally be you, the police may decide to tell someone who can best protect you, such as a social worker, and may discuss a safety plan to help and support you. A support worker can also go to this meeting, if you want. This could be someone from Victim Support NI or Women’s Aid, for example.
It is important that what the police tell you is necessary and proportionate to the risk posed to you.
The police may contact you with information about your partner, whether you have asked for a background check or not. If they have received indirect information about your partner, they may decide it is necessary to warn you about their history of abuse. All information the police tell you is confidential and must only be used to protect you.
At the meeting with the police where you are told your partner has a history of abusive behaviour, you will be asked to sign an agreement that you will not share the information with anyone else, without first getting permission from the PSNI.
Unfortunately police checks, or any information they tell you about your partner, cannot guarantee your safety. They will, however, make you aware of what support is available to you.
Contact the police in an emergency
If you are in immediate danger, always call 999.
If you are not in immediate danger but wish to report a crime, you can also contact the PSNI on the non-emergency number, 101.
Domestic violence and abuse schemes in other parts of UK
If the person at risk lives outside of Northern Ireland, you should contact their local police service for information.
There is a similar disclosure scheme for people at risk who live in England, Wales or Scotland. To find out more, go to the links below:
- Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland
- Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as Clare's Law) in England and Wales
More useful links
- 24-hour domestic and sexual violence helpline
- Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland
- Victim Support Northern Ireland
- Men's Advisory Project Northern Ireland
- Men's Action Network