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‘Clare’s law’ and ‘Sarah’s law’ provide info on abusers in UK, but laws not in South Africa

Women can “visit any police station and request a Clare Law’s which allows people to find out if their partner has a history of domestic abuse”, claims a screenshot of a now-deleted tweet recently shared on Facebook

It also claims that asking for a “Sarah Law’s” will reveal a history of child sexual abuse.

Both the original tweet and the Facebook post were from South African accounts.

Who are Clare and Sarah?

“Clare’s law” was introduced to England and Wales in March 2014. Its official name is the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, but it is shortened as “Clare’s law” after Clare Wood, a 36-year-old who was murdered in 2009 by an ex-boyfriend with a history of violence against women.

The law allows anyone to ask police whether a partner has a history of violence, or domestic violence. Not every request is answered, though. A panel reviews each one to determine that the information is only revealed “where it is lawful, proportionate and necessary”.

After its success in England and Wales, the law was extended to Scotland in 2015 and Northern Ireland in 2018.

“Sarah’s law” is similar, named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne who was murdered by a convicted sex offender in 2000. Officially called the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, it allows anyone in England or Wales to ask that police reveal whether someone in contact with a child has a record of child sexual offences.

Once again, requests are not always answered. First they are reviewed by police who must decide that it would be “lawful, necessary and proportionate” to reveal information.

No such laws in South Africa

But does South Africa have an equivalent to Clare’s law or Sarah’s law? No.

South Africa does not have any similar laws. The country does have a National Register for Sex Offenders or NRSO, except this register is private. As the department of justice explains, there are few cases in which someone can request access to information from the register.

Employers are allowed to find out whether someone appears on the register when hiring a person who will work with children or mentally disabled people. Individuals may also ask for a certificate to prove that they do not appear on the register, to use when applying for a job.

In all other cases, no information on the register will be revealed to the public. – Keegan Leech


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