Wednesday, 21 March 2007

New Route to Make Police Accountable

Posted by Frank Mullane

My sister Julia Pemberton and nephew William Pemberton (pictured left) were murdered on 18th November 2003, 14 months after Alan Pemberton promised to kill Julia, notice that was given to Thames Valley Police (TVP).

This Force had no Domestic Violence policy despite Home office guidance requiring it, years before. It ignored the reporting of explicit death threats, of intensifying threats and infringements of the injunction with power of arrest.

TVP’s futile firearms policy was of more danger to the victim and yet was redeployed seven months later at Highmoor Cross when Vicky Horgan and Emma Walton were murdered. At that Inquest, TVP testified that the call handler doesn’t know the operational response of the police. It is of enormous significance that this Force, under the charge of Chief Constable Peter Neyroud who has never communicated with my family, allowed a call handler to offer my sister encouragement and advice which amounted to critically misleading life dependent information. Julia was being promised immediate assistance whilst the police log recorded “No units to attend”. It is equally significant that this untenable firearms policy was not changed before the tragedy at Highmoor Cross even though the police must have known it was not about going to the assistance of the victim/s.

Suing the police for negligence in the past has proved very difficult as they have successfully relied upon the case of Hill. Today, there may be another way via the The Human Rights Act by asking a High Court judge for a 'declaration' that the police failed to protect the victims' right to life. Last year, the family of Giles Van Colle was awarded £50,000. The judge ruled that the police had failed to 'discharge their positive obligation' to Van Colle by doing nothing about the threats, adding that his family's distress had been intensified by the force's failure to apologise. The police have appealed, the judgement being outstanding.

If the Van Colle family wins, other cases will follow potentially bringing an unprecedented level of scrutiny to bear on police handling of domestic violence cases. Use of this remedy is in its infancy and such cases need support.

John Latham, the solicitor representing many families in these cases said:

“All these cases have clear evidence of systemic failure. It's just not good enough, as the police have claimed in the past, to say that women died because certain individuals did not get it right.”

Read further articles by Frank Mullane
April 2006 and March 2007


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