Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Domestic abuse case action reviewed

The inspection will look at the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse

Police forces' handling of domestic violence is to be scrutinised by the police watchdog in the wake of a number of high profile cases where victims have been failed by the service.

The review has been sparked by cases such as Clare Wood, 36, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford in February 2009 after meeting him on Facebook, unaware of his history of violence against women.

Other cases include the death of Maria Stubbings, 50, who was murdered by Marc Chivers at her home in Chelmsford, Essex, in December 2008, a year after Chivers had been freed from a German prison where he had served 15 years for murdering his then girlfriend Sabine Rappold.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will look at the performance of forces across England and Wales, identify where improvements need to be made and report back to the Home Office in April 2014.

Announcing the review, Home Secretary Theresa May said: "This Government is serious about keeping women and girls safe. We have seen improvements over the past year - domestic violence, rape and sexual offence prosecutions have reached their highest ever conviction rate for the second year running - so the systems in place to protect women are working better.

"But sadly there are still too many cases, like those of Clare Wood and Maria Stubbings, where victims have lost their lives because warning signs were missed. We have a duty to provide vulnerable people with the best possible protection, which is why I have commissioned Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to review current practices and recommend where further improvements can be made."

The HMIC inspection will look at the effectiveness of the police approach to domestic violence and abuse and whether victims deemed to be at risk in the future are appropriately managed. It will also consider whether police are learning from past experiences and adapting their response and whether any changes need to be made to the overall police approach.

Clare Wood's death led to the creation of "Clare's Law", which allows women to discover if they are at risk of domestic violence from a partner. The year-long pilot scheme was introduced last September in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Wiltshire and Nottingham.

In June, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said 65 people had applied for a disclosure about a boyfriend or an individual who was in a relationship with someone they knew. A further 25 applications were submitted by agencies where it was felt somebody might be at risk.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, welcomed the inspection, but called for a full public inquiry into the handling of domestic violence cases.

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