Force accepts learning after investigation into its contact with woman stabbed by ex-partner

Derbyshire Constabulary says it has taken steps to improve the identification and response to repeat incidents of domestic abuse following an investigation into its contact with a woman before her ex-partner stabbed her.

Dec 4, 2020
By Paul Jacques

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said “investigative and safeguarding opportunities had been missed” by officers prior to the woman being beaten and stabbed several times by her former partner in an “utterly appalling attack” when he broke into her home

Derbyshire Constabulary said since the incident, frontline officers and staff – including those in the force control room – have now completed ‘Domestic Abuse Matters’ training and “dozens of domestic abuse champions have been created across the force”.

The IOPC said the force also agreed to take on board its recommendations for improving systems and training around risk assessments and safeguarding measures for victims, as well as the recording and linking of incidents of harassment, and the use of body-worn video by officers attending domestic abuse incidents.

“Following a referral from Derbyshire Constabulary in November 2019 we independently investigated their prior contact with a woman who was beaten and stabbed several times by Aaron Booth when he broke into her home in Glossop on February 2 that year,” said the IOPC. “Booth, who was on bail after being arrested following an earlier incident, continued to threaten her with a knife and stabbed her in the street after she had called police to the scene.”

In October 2019, Booth was jailed for 14 years after he admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, assault by beating, escaping custody and possession of a bladed article. He was also given an indefinite restraining order prohibiting him from contacting his victim.

The IOPC said its inquiries focused on how police handled six domestic abuse incidents reported to them between September and November 2018. They included reports that Booth was trying to get into the woman’s home and making threats; and calls from colleagues saying he was being abusive after turning up at her workplace.

“Evidence gathered by our investigator indicated that while risk assessments were carried out on each of those occasions, the woman’s risk status was downgraded twice, little positive action was taken in dealing with Booth, and investigative and safeguarding opportunities were missed,” said the IOPC.

IOPC Regional Director Derrick Campbell said: “Despite it being evident that a pattern of abuse was emerging, officers did not identify that, as they treated each of the incidents in isolation. No crimes were recorded prior to Booth being arrested and bailed on November 15, 2018, and opportunities for safeguarding were not acted upon.

“For instance, no consideration was given to using the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme to inform the woman of Booth’s previous history, and more could have been done to ensure that he was not breaching bail conditions prohibiting him from contacting her.

“While we found no evidence that Derbyshire Constabulary caused or contributed to the injuries received by the woman, a more pro-active approach could have been taken in dealing with Booth, in an attempt to prevent the abuse from escalating.”

Mr Campbell added: “I am pleased that the force has accepted our learning recommendations around the further training of officers who deal with domestic abuse situations and the implementation of systems designed to link incidents. This case has shown the importance of that, along with effective research checks, in helping police to join the dots and safeguard vulnerable people.”

The IOPC said while its investigation found that many of the issues were systemic, the force agreed that two constables had a case to answer for misconduct for not appropriately actioning some of the incidents in respect of the non-recording of crimes or handling of risk assessments.

It was also agreed with the force that a further eight officers should receive management action in the form of advice as their performance had not met expected standards.

This was in relation to issues such as failing to check police systems for previous incidents, not following up reasonable lines of inquiry, and a lack of action or inappropriate decisions made around safeguarding.

The IOPC added: “During our investigation, finalised in September this year, we reviewed relevant national and local policies and guidance in relation to domestic abuse. We also studied police incident logs and crime records, reviewed police radio transmissions and analysed statements provided by the officers we investigated, along with accounts from police witnesses.”

In a statement following the IOPC report, Derbyshire Constabulary said: “The force welcomes the recommendations made by the IOPC and, while we cannot comment on the specifics of this case given the ongoing misconduct proceedings, the force has already proactively implemented many of the points raised in the report.

“Anyone who has heard the 999 call of the incident cannot be anything other than horrified by the utterly appalling attack that took place on that February night. It is hoped that the substantial jail sentence that Aaron Marsden Booth was given has helped the victim on her journey following the incident.”

It added: “Over the past 12 months frontline officers and staff members – including those in the force control room – have completed Domestic Abuse Matters training. This training, which is run by the charity Safe Lives, helps staff and officers spot the signs of abuse and understand the tactics used by perpetrators.

Following the initial Domestic Abuse Matters training, dozens of domestic abuse champions have been created across the force – with those who volunteered undertaking further in-depth training, in order for them to support colleagues in investigations and interactions with survivors of domestic abuse.

“Local partner organisations which focus on domestic abuse are also part of that ‘champions’ group and the force has a well-developed working relationship with our third sector colleagues in order to continue to improve our response to protect victims.

“These partners have worked with the force over the past year in a proactive approach to engaging with the general public, including offering monthly online domestic abuse surgeries. These have resulted in reports of abuse being disclosed by members of the public and vulnerable victims being safeguarded.”

Derbyshire Constabulary said it has also been at “the forefront of digital public contact, with reports of crime able to be taken via Twitter and Facebook, allowing those in domestic abuse situations multiple ways in which to access support”.

It added: “As a result of that online work, the force was chosen to pilot a new domestic abuse reporting mechanism on the constabulary’s website – which in its first day saw a survivor of abuse make a report using the form.

“The report also raised issues around risk and safeguarding actions – both of which are part of an updated analysis that is undertaken for each and every incident that comes into the force called THRIVE. All officers and staff are receiving training in THRIVE to ensure that any threats, risks or harm are detailed and appropriate measures put in place at that time given the risks posed.

“There has also been specific targeted work in regards to Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders, which help provide further protection for victims, however, it is important to note that Booth was on police bail with conditions not to contact the victim when the attack took place.”

Derbyshire Constabulary concluded that it “was absolutely committed to protecting domestic abuse survivors and working day and night to keep communities safe”.

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