Friday, December 18, 2009

Police reprimanded over serious domestic violence failings

Police reprimanded over serious domestic violence failings

Greater Manchester police failed to assess risks to woman murdered by violent husband, rules IPCC

A victim of domestic violence

Police have been urged to improve their skills in dealing with domestic violence.

Police forces were urged today to become more skilled at dealing with domestic violence after serious failings were exposed in the way officers handled the case of a woman who was stabbed to death by her husband after a long and volatile relationship.

Greater Manchester police was criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for failing to properly assess the risks faced by Katie Boardman at the hands of her husband, Brian Taylor.

In the last 16 months of her life officers dealt with 11 incidents involving the couple. But the force failed to put the incidents together and form a view of the risk to Boardman. Instead, it dealt with each call-out as an individual incident.

In the last four days of her life Boardman and her family called the police five times after Taylor harassed and threatened her.

On one occasion Boardman and her sister reported Taylor had stolen the keys to his wife's house – they lived separately.

But the incident was treated as an isolated one and not marked down as part of a pattern of behaviour from a man who had a history of violence towards the mother of his children. Later the same evening in October last year, police were called again by Boardman's sister when Taylor appeared at the rear of his wife's house. He was arrested for a separate incident of criminal damage but released on police bail at 11.13pm.

Less than 48 hours later Taylor stabbed his wife to death. He pleaded guilty to murder last February and is serving a life sentence.

Naseem Malik, the IPCC commissioner for the north-west said: "The terrible spectre of domestic violence is something police forces must become more skilled at dealing with. The record is improving but there is still work to be done.

"I fully appreciate domestic violence can be a very complex and challenging subject for officers to deal with. But it is a great tragedy that it seems to take the death of a woman to highlight failures in police systems."

She said the IPCC inquiry had shown a "clear failure" by Greater Manchester police to identify the pattern of problems.

"Instead, each incident appears to have been handled in isolation. Taken in isolation the incidents were generally handled appropriately – but there was a total failure to consider the history and the increasing risk and as a result the troubled relationship continued to fester," said Malik.

She said no one failing could be said to have contributed to Boardman's death and acknowledged the victim had not always been forthcoming with the police. But Malik added: "It was equally clear that her family, and in particular her sister Sarah, had grave concerns about the relationship with Taylor and sought police support. That support was not sufficient."

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