The Difference Between ‘Clare’s Law’ and ‘Sarah’s Law’

Posted on: May 10th, 2024

Clare’s Law and Sarah’s Law are both pieces of legislation aimed at protecting individuals from harm, particularly in the context of domestic abuse and child protection, but they serve different purposes in different jurisdictions.

Clare’s Law

Clare’s Law, often known as ‘Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme’ (DVDS) enables the police to disclose information to a victim or potential victim of domestic violence about their partner or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

Background of Clare’s Law

Clare’s Law is named after Clare Wood, a 36-year-old woman from Yorkshire who was sadly murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009. She met him on Facebook, unaware that he had criminal history when he befriended her. The pair began a 6-month relationship, which Clare finally ended after it turned coercive.

George Appleton refused to move on, subjecting her to consistently abusive behaviour such as harassment, damage to her property, threats of violence and attempted assault.

Clare made a police statement and got a restraining Order against George however is behaviour continued unchecked.

It finally ended with him taking Clare’s life, followed by his own days after. Investigations later revealed that he had a history of violent and abusive behaviour.

Following Clare’s death, her Father, Michael Brown began a campaign to challenge the laws against data protection as there was a loophole within the Data Protection Act whereby former abusers were able to keep their criminal records confidential.

He believed that Clare would not have lost her life if she had been aware of Appleton’s violent past.

After 5 years of campaigning, Michael Brown managed to change the law to allow police to both disclose and change the law to allow police to inform people of their partner’s criminal records and relevant past convictions.

Clare’s Law was introduced in England and Wales in 2014 under the official title of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

How can this be used?

The scheme has two elements:

  • The Right to Ask
  • The Right to Know

The Risk to Ask allows individuals or relevant third party (for example, a family member) to ask the police to check whether a current or ex-partner has a violent or abusive past. If the records show that an individual may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.

The Right to Know enables the police to make a disclosure on their own initiative if they receive information about the violent or abusive behaviour of a person that may impact on the safety of that person’s current or ex-partner.


In the year ending March 2020, 8,591 ‘right to know’ applications were applied for in England and Wales. 4479 (52%) applications resulted in disclosure.

In the year ending March 2020, 11,556 ‘right to ask’ applications were applied for in England and Wales. 4,236 (37%) applications resulted in disclosure.


Sarah’s Law

Sarah’s Law, often known as the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (CSODS), allows people to formally ask the police whether someone who has contact with a child or children:

  • Has a record for child sexual (pedophile) offences,
  • Poses a risk to the child or children for some other reason.

This scheme allows parents, carers, and guardians of children under 18-years-old to contact the police about whether someone who has had contact with their child could put them at risk based on any past offences.


Sarah’s Law was established following the murder of 8-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000. Following her murder, her parents collaborated with the News of the World to mount a campaign like Megan’s Law in the USA (similar to Sarah’s Law but for the USA, following Megan Kanka being raped and murdered by her neighbour in 1994, which allowed every parent in the country to know if dangerous offenders are living in their area).

Sarah Payne was sadly murdered by convicted pedophile Roy Whiting and her body was found in a field near Pulborough, 15 miles from where she had disappeared in Kingston George.

Roy Whiting had a history of child sex crimes, having previously abducted and sexually assaulted another 8-year-old girl prior to Sarah’s murder.

This scheme was officially introduced on 04 April 2011.

How can this be used?

This scheme gives guidance on how individuals can ask to the police to use their existing police powers to share information about sex offenders.

If an individual is worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child or something has been seen or heard, Sarah’s Law can be used to find out if that person is a risk.

Police forces process the application which triggers an investigation to find out if a person has a known history even if there are no firm grounds for suspicion. Although disclosure is not definite the police will consider sharing information to the person best placed to protect the child.


It was noted that more than 200 children were protected from potential harm during the first year of this scheme.

Our Practice

At Cygnet Law, we offer services surrounding child related practices, including advice on what to do in the above situations.

Public Law

Cygnet Law represent Local Authorities in Care Proceedings whereby issues of domestic abuse can arise between parents. The Local Authority can make Claire’s Law requests in respect of a parent to inform the other if they have an abusive past.

Private Law

Cygnet Law represents parents when they apply for Order such as a Child Arrangements Order (a Court Order that specifies where a child should live and/or the amount of time they should spend with another named person). During these proceedings, parents can use Sarah’s Law to ensure the person the child is going to be spending time with is suitable and that the child is free from potential harm.

Give us a call, on 01642 777680, if you require any further information about the above.

Kirsty Ward

Written by Kirsty Ward – Public Law Paralegal

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