Essex police criticised over handling of domestic violence cases

 

A police force criticised over the murders of three women and a young girl in domestic violence cases needs to do more to target men who repeatedly abuse their victims, an inspector's report says today.

Essex police was investigated after a string of blunders that led to demands for a public inquiry into the way that forces nationwide handle domestic violence cases.

The force was criticised last month over the murder in 2008 of Maria Stubbings, 50, by her former partner Marc Chivers who had served time in prison in Germany for killing another woman. She had made repeated calls for help but a panic alarm at her home was disabled just before the killing, the police watchdog's report found.

The force, which deals with 80 cases of domestic violence a day, was also criticised for failing to send officers to a woman, Jeanette Goodwin, 47, who had told them five times about her fears of a jealous ex-lover before he stabbed her to death in 2011.

That murder came just two months after Christine Chambers and her two-year-old daughter were killed by the girl's father David Oakes. Ms Chambers had made an escalating number of calls to the force but there had been a “failings of systems” at the force, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found.

The police inspectorate was called in after the problems were exposed. It said in its report today that Essex had made improvements but more had to be done to target persistent offenders and to work more closely with victims. It also found that prosecutors had dropped some cases where offenders could have been taken to court.

Manuel Fernandez, the brother of Maria Stubbings, said: “My sister Maria was killed after making repeated calls for help to Essex Police. They made a catalogue of failings in their response to her - and this report… shows that they still have a long way to go to make sure that my sister's tragedy isn't repeated.”

Essex Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, who has taken control of how the force responds to the issue, accepted that improvements needed to be made. “We are committed to helping victims of domestic abuse and we would urge anyone suffering at the hands of a violent offender to contact us immediately.”

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