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Kerri's campaign helps dozens of women discover their partner's violent past

PUBLISHED: 08:12 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 13 August 2019

Friends and family of Kerri McAuley help launch the 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Friends and family of Kerri McAuley help launch the 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

A campaign launched after the brutal murder of a Norwich mother has helped dozens of women discover their partner's violent past.

Picture of Kerri McAuley. Submitted by Kerri's family.Picture of Kerri McAuley. Submitted by Kerri's family.

Kerri's Campaign was launched in 2017 to help Leeway - Norfolk's domestic abuse charity - kit out a new domestic violence safe house.

It was after the mum of two was murdered by her partner at the time - Joe Storey - in January 2017. A serious incident review after Ms McAuley's death found her life could have been saved if she had been told about Storey's violent past.

And the number of people asking for disclosure of their partner's history has doubled in just a year in Norfolk.

"Awareness campaigns both locally - such as Kerri's Campaign - and nationally have helped ensure that the issue is on the political agenda as well as in the public eye," said Mandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway.

Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, commonly known as Clare's Law, information on a partner's criminal history can be disclosed to a person who may be at risk.

It can come after that person asks for the information - right to ask - or if authorities become concerned about them - right to know.

Right to know disclosures are around two thirds of all Clare's Law disclosures in Norfolk, but the number of people using right to ask has doubled.

Temporary Det Insp Alix Wright, of the multi-agency safeguarding hub, said: "A lot of people will ask because they have concerns as they have been a victim previously.

Friends and family of Kerri McAuley help launch the 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway.
Kerri's mum Lesley with the campaign top.
Picture: Nick ButcherFriends and family of Kerri McAuley help launch the 'Kerri's Campaign' to raise £10K for Leeway. Kerri's mum Lesley with the campaign top. Picture: Nick Butcher

"It might not show anything but it is a tool for safeguarding, especially if they have experienced it before or they have children. They might not want to get too heavily involved before checking.

"Convictions about driving or drugs would not be something we disclose - it is just domestic abuse or a propensity for violence."

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A woman who may be at risk can be visited by a detective constable and domestic abuse advisor from Leeway if they have concerns.

Mandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway, the charity providing support to those experiencing domestic abuse.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMandy Proctor, chief executive of Leeway, the charity providing support to those experiencing domestic abuse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"It is not always convictions, it is around risk and threat as well," added T/DI Wright. "Domestic abuse is extremely difficult to convict. Sometimes cases get dropped at court because of that underlying coercion and control.

"We can disclose allegations that have been made around that person - particularly if there is a significant history. We start to see some people have a pattern with various different partners.

"It is a professional judgement call on a case by case basis."

She added Norfolk is "higher than the national average" for right to know disclosures.

"Our team review and risk assess domestic abuse cases that come through the system," she said. "They will check the history and see whether this is a new partner.

"The last thing you want to do is say there is no history, because that implies there is nothing to worry about when maybe there is a significant history of allegations. We don't want to put people in that position. We give people enough information to make an educated decision about their future relationship.

"We can get them to a refuge if it's that important and give them advice on the best ways to end that relationship so they don't become a future victim of abuse.

"One of the highest risk points is when that relationship finishes."

Ms Proctor said: "Awareness of domestic abuse has improved significantly over the past couple of years. People are able to recognise the signs that they might be in an abusive relationship at an earlier stage and are therefore able to access support sooner.

"Leeway has a dedicated worker that supports those receiving disclosures. This worker will often accompany the police when the disclosure is made and will offer advice and support, as well as helping to put safety plans in place."

For free, confidential advice call the Leeway domestic abuse helpline on 0300 561 0077.

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