Checking for a partner's history of abuse
If you’re worried that your partner or the partner of someone you know has a history of domestic abuse, you can ask the police to check for you through the Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme. The scheme is for men and women in Northern Ireland.
Eligible to use the scheme
The scheme is open to men and women aged 16 years old or older. The person at risk must live in Northern Ireland.
How to find out a partner's history of domestic abuse
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
- police will tell you that you could be at risk, if they receive information from elsewhere about your safety
Apply online process
You must fill in 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. This is the 'right to ask' process.
When the police get your application, they'll 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.
Meeting the police to find out more
The police will carry out initial checks on their systems. If you're in immediate danger, they will contact you immediately.
If you are not in immediate danger but police have a concern based on information they hold, the police will ask to meet you. At this meeting, the police will ask you for more information to support your application. They will also ask you for photographic identification.
‘Power to tell’ process
If police have information about any risks to your safety, they can do checks. The police will decide whether they need to tell you about your partner's abusive history based on any concerns they have from the information they hold. 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.
Information will only be shared with you where concerns have been identified that could potentially put you at risk and it is necessary and within the law to do so. 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.
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.
Police checks or any information they tell you about your partner, cannot guarantee your safety. They'll 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 want to report a crime, you can also contact the police on the non-emergency number, 101.
Domestic violence and abuse schemes in other parts of UK
If the person at risk lives outside Northern Ireland, you should contact their local police service for information.
There is a similar disclosure scheme for people at risk who live in Scotland, England or Wales. To find out more, go to:
- Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland
- Clare's Law and requesting domestic violence offender data