The last thing a police officer probably wants to do is tell a woman her new man has a record of violence in relationships. But the Justice Minister's instruction to police to revise their guidelines so officers may do so is a good decision. People in new relationships can be blind to troubling signs and deaf to others' misgivings, but a quiet word from a police officer - perhaps especially a police woman - just may be more effective than anything anybody else can do to prevent domestic violence.
Amy Adams is considering going further, allowing people to do a police check on a prospective partner, or the new partner of a friend or family member. The minister wants to see how similar new provisions in the United Kingdom work out before she takes that step. She doubts it would be widely used by people entering a relationship. It might prove to be used more by friends and family of someone thought to be at risk.
The wider that such criminal information is made available, the greater concern there will be for offenders' privacy rights. Police are called to many more incidents of domestic violence than result in criminal prosecutions, let alone convictions. It is the offence that leaves its victims most exposed to retribution, and most inclined to give the offender another chance. Is the minister's new instruction to police confined to information about convictions? Or can police share what they know from frequent call-outs?
The right to privacy in these circumstances is surely superseded by another person's right to be warned against a high risk of physical harm. Let's stop using gender neutral terms on this subject. Men might sometimes be injured by violent women, but the injuries a man can do to a woman are usually very much worse, which is why any man who strikes a woman is beneath contempt. His rights to privacy are hard to respect if police have found his female partner has been battered.
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The information police can share with his new partner, or friend or family of his new partner, ought not to be confined to criminal convictions. It should certainly include any protection orders sought and granted. It should probably extend to police files on call-outs that would have resulted in charges had the victim been willing to press them.
Whenever the subject of domestic violence is under official inquiry, police and social welfare agencies talk about the need to improve their sharing of information about people at risk. They mean sharing between themselves. It is well past time they shared what they know with potential victims and those who - under appropriate circumstances and with suitable controls - want to find out if a friend or family member may be in danger.
Steps must be taken to ensure the police record being released is not dated, unfair or incomplete. The risk of damage to a personal relationship, however, is less than the damage adverse police information would do to, say, employment. A word from police will not be welcome, but likely will be taken to heart.