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Sputnik UK: Safe, Not Sorry: New Site Runs Background Checks on Potential Partners

So how well do you know your partner or your potential partner’s past? Are you worried about your son or your daughter’s new partner? Do they have a record of domestic violence? Have they been convicted of a criminal offence? A new website claims to have the answers.

Are They Safe, a website set up by Laura Lyons, was created when she discovered her husband had a violent past – but she had already married him. Laura suffered physical abuse at the hands of her spouse for years, but she managed to leave him. Others aren’t as lucky.  

This year alone, 134 women have already been killed by men in the UK, and as many as 1.2 million women experience some form of domestic abuse annually. According to the Home Office, domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime – but Laura’s website promises people entering relationships a chance to avoid the pain, for the price of £195. 

This includes a verification of their personal details, a criminal history check and a financial services check.

For an extra £155, clients can buy an Enhanced Background Check which includes an international sanction check and business interest and property ownership. Surveillance services are also available. 

History of Violence

One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute; on average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner in England and Wales, according to 1998 Homicide Statistics. One in four women experience domestic violence over their lifetime. 

Criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher says the Are They Safe service is essential. “There are over a million female victims a year of domestic violence and there are an unknown number of repeat male perpetrators”, said Fletcher, who also heads up Digital Trust, a data security company. “I think the service is both timely and essential”. 

A similar scheme was launched earlier this year called Clare’s Law, or more officially, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. In 2009, Clare Wood was killed by her partner who had a history of violence against women. Her father successfully campaigned for legal changes, and now anyone can ask the police to perform a criminal check on their partner if they’re concerned that they may pose a threat. 

But to make a formal inquiry through the police, all applicants must go to a police station and file the request in person. Harry Fletcher believes the Are They Safe website will give those unwilling to invite the police into their private lives a better option. 

“There will be some women who are happy to go to police but the take up of going to police has been very low. What I hope is that this service performs better because the victims will have more confidence in it if they don’t want to go formally to the local police station,” Fletcher said. “If the person has suspicions and they are able to do this check at a reasonable cost, with all the evidence provided for them they will be able to make a decision whether to stay in a relationship — or even enter it in the first place."

False Reassurance?

Juliet Spare - Sputniknews.com

By 2031, one in two relationships will begin online. That’s according to research published earlier this year by a dating website. But the internet allows for anonymity and the opportunity to build a entirely fake life for yourself. A website where you can pay to check on a potential partner’s background is according to Harry Fletcher, an opportunity to save potential victims who meet partners online from domestic violence. 

“Half of all relationships now start online; we have many examples of perpetrators putting on false profiles and female victims only finding out too late after they’ve already met up. Meeting digitally is massively on the increase and there is an urgent need for checks for regulation, and this is one way of potential victims doing that", said the criminal justice expert.  

Laura Lyons, founder of Are They Safe, believes a low cost background checking service on potential partners may help thousands of people think twice about pursuing a personal, intimate or professional relationship with someone. But Polly Neate, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Women’s Aid worries the website might falsely reassure a women that her partner is safe.

“Unfortunately, most perpetrators of domestic violence are never picked up by police or prosecuted, meaning the information given by a private investigator might falsely reassure a woman her partner is safe”. 

The government is considering equating the psychological damage of domestic violence with the severity of physical abuse, and there is a bill currently being worked on. But until it is actually implemented, and offenders receive harsher punishments, many women in the UK remain at risk. 

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