Over 300 requests to tell people in Somerset and the Bristol area if they are at risk of domestic abuse are currently in a police backlog.

Avon and Somerset Police said that all applications for the crucial information were being processed by one person — and this had caused a bottleneck. Now they say they are bringing in more staff to tackle the issue.

The domestic violence disclosure scheme, commonly known as “Clare’s law,” allows someone at risk of abuse to find out about the previous violent or abusive behaviour of a potential abuser, such as a new partner. Someone can request information from the police themself, or a third party can ask the police to tell someone at risk of abuse about their potential abuser’s past. The police may also disclose information to someone without an application if they believe they are at risk.

But an inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services published in March found there were delays in disclosing this information. The inspectorate rated the force “adequate” for protecting vulnerable people but ordered them to reduce the backlog.

The inspectorate warned: “If potential victims of domestic abuse or sexual offending aren’t given information promptly, they can’t make an informed decision about their safety and may unknowingly remain at risk.”

Asked for an update at the police and crime commissioner’s performance and accountability board on October 12, Assistant Chief Constable Jon Riley said that the number of pending applications remained at a similar level to when the inspection happened — at just over 300.

He said: “Clearly the volume’s coming in, we’ve cleared some of the backlog, and the numbers have stayed pretty static. But to reassure, we risk assess and triage those applications to make sure the highest risk are dealt with in the first instance.”

Assistant Chief Constable Riley explained that processing the applications had been allocated as a task to one person, because it was a specialised task, but there had then been an increase in applications. He said: “We have found that individual is a bottleneck which has caused some of the delays we’ve got at the moment.”

He added: “Clearly we’ve had a huge number coming in. The individual themself was not able to facilitate all of the disclosures and we’ve had to put more staff into that. Critically, we have now been able to allocate three full time members of staff to join that individual.

“So that recruitment is taking place now internally and they will be in place very quickly.”

When force was inspected, there was also a backlog of applications to disclose information about child sex offenders — with 43 cases waiting to be processed. Assistant Chief Constable Riley said the police had fully caught up with these.

He said that the police were now planning to create a “disclosure team” with the Lighthouse safeguarding unit, to work on disclosure in both domestic violence and child sex offender cases and create “resilience” for both processes.