Today it was announced that Essex Police receive around 31,000 reports of domestic abuse in Essex every year. It takes around 25% of the entire police force to handle these reports.
The Case of Chrissie Chambers
This news follows a specific case concerning the murder of a mother and daughter by David Oakes, her ex-partner. Chrissie Chambers had complained to the police of intimidation but no action was taken. There was a catalogue of reports over a 2 year period concerning Chrissie Chambers. On one occasion David Oakes was seen dragging Chrissie Chambers down the street by her hair and beaten. Also, her 11-year-old son had made claims of physical abuse before the killing.
Chrissie Chambers also gave the police 100 aggressive and threatening text messages from David Oakes just days before she was murdered by him.
However, the police treated many of the incidents in isolation and failed to look at the bigger picture – an ongoing period of harassment and abuse towards a single woman by the same man. The ICC investigation concluded that that Essex Police were not “joining the dots“. It also stated that there was inadequate training for front line offices on how to deal with domestic abuse and harassment cases.
Today the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has said that there were systematic failings by Essex Police before the David Oakes murdered his ex-partner Chrissie Chambers and thier 2 year-old daughter. The murder took place following a long period of harassment, which was reported to the police.
In addition to the harassment there was also a custody battle over the daughter. However, Essex Police did not have access to the files concerning the custody battle over the daughter.
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne made the following statement:
“The deaths of Christine and Shania Chambers are shocking to us all. It is impossible to say with any certainty whether if individual officers or the force had done things differently, Ms Chambers and Shania would still be alive today.
While individual police officers could and should have done things better, this is not essentially a failure of individuals, but a failure of systems. The investigation identified a lack of adequate training, insufficient resources allocated to domestic violence cases and poor oversight.
“This is a tragic and disturbing case and the investigation has identified several key issues which apply to many other cases where domestic homicide is the outcome.
Many women are reluctant to pursue criminal proceedings against abusive partners, sometimes even to seek help at all. There are many reasons for this, and often it is fear that they will exacerbate the situation and increase the danger they face.
Undoubtedly this poses significant challenges for the police and other agencies, but it is essential in these situations that all possible is done to protect the victims and their children.
Unwillingness to seek help or give evidence against the perpetrator is often due to fear and can be a sign of vulnerability, not culpability, and this must be recognised when a risk assessment is completed.”
In response to the report Essex Police has apologised for their failings. Essex Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason made the following statement:
“On behalf of everyone at Essex Police, I extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Christine and Shania Chambers, who were brutally murdered by David Oakes in the early hours of June 6 2011.
Essex Police accepts the findings of the IPCC report, and apologises for the failures identified there.
Every police officer involved in the case of Christine and Shania is devastated by their passing. I too am devastated by their deaths. I became a police officer to protect the vulnerable, and to put criminals like Oakes behind bars.
Essex Police is committed to working tirelessly to reduce the likelihood of tragedies such as this from occurring again.
He added: “The unbelievable inhumanity of these murders led Oakes to be sentenced to two whole-life prison terms – the most extreme punishment which the British judicial system can impose.
You would think that a man capable of such horror would have a history of violence. Oakes did not: he had no convictions or cautions for violence.
In fact, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has found that significant ‘information concerning Oakes’s violence towards Christine Chambers was not available to the police or social services’.
The IPCC also stated that there was no information that Oakes had access to a firearm. Essex Police acts promptly and decisively whenever it receives credible intelligence about illegally-held weapons.
Essex Police accepts the report of the IPCC and welcomes the recommendation that processes should be developed for better information sharing between police forces and agencies such as social services, courts and solicitors. This is particularly important in cases involving child custody proceedings, where allegations of domestic violence have not been reported to officers.
It should be stressed that the IPCC investigation found that it is impossible to say with any certainty that, if the force had done things differently, Christine and Shania would be alive today. It also found no evidence of misconduct by any of our officers.”
Hopefully vital lessons are learned from this case and that more resources, and better training, can be provided to ensure that Essex Police officers are better equipped to deal with cases of domestic violence.
Violence – a Common Cause of Death
In 2004 the World Health Organisation released data for the most common causes of death globally. While the well know diseases such as heart disease, strokes, diarrhoea and CPOD account for the most common causes of death, violence (or which much is domestic violence) is ranked 17th globally – above war injuries, drowning, HIV and breast cancer.
Domestic Violence Statistics
These statistics are from www.womensaid.org.uk
- 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence – although the severity and frequency of violence varies greatly
- 1 incident is reported to the police every minute in the UK
- 2 women are killed each week by a current or former partner
These figures do not include harassment, stalking or emotional abuse. They also do not include sexual assault. Also, 40% of domestic violence is against a male.
More UK statistics are available from the www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk:
- Domestic violence is estimated to cost victims, services and the state a total of around £23 billion a year.
- Around 21% of girls, experience some form of child sexual abuse
- At least 80,000 women suffer rape every year
- 45% of women have experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking
Domestic violence is a serious problem all over the world. However, in a wealthy and civilised country there really should be much stronger measures in place to ensure that problems are detected early on and solutions found to prevent more cases like this.