PC guilty of gross incompetence for failing domestic abuse victim

A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer has been found guilty of gross incompetence after “utterly failing” a teenage domestic abuse victim who died following an argument with her ex-boyfriend.

Sep 9, 2020
By Paul Jacques

A disciplinary hearing found Police Constable Sophie Dennis failed to conduct mandatory risk assessments for 17-year-old Katrina Makunova and put in place necessary safeguarding measures.

Police Constable Kerry Lynham also faced a gross incompetence hearing following an investigation into the incident by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Both officers were investigated for their actions in handling allegations of domestic abuse made by Ms Makunova, who died on July 12, 2018, following an argument with her ex-boyfriend Oluwaseyi Dada, 23, in Camberwell, southeast London.

PC Dennis was given a 12-month final written improvement notice and PC Lynham was given a 12-month written improvement notice.

Both officers had been called to Ms Makunova’s address after reports of a disturbance by Dada on June 23, 2018.

The gross incompetence hearing heard evidence that they failed:

  • To act on her fears that she was being harassed by her ex-partner both at home and at her place of work, that his behaviour was controlling and abusive, and that his behaviour could escalate to him killing someone;
  • To take a statement from Ms Makunova and complete a domestic violence investigation/arrest form (124d) or ask the questions required in domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) cases, as per police guidance;
  • To safeguard a child by not completing a MERLIN report for the incident – the database run by the MPS that stores information on children who have become known to the police for any reason.

The officers referred Ms Makunova to a local domestic abuse support charity and suggested she take out a restraining order against Dada.

PC Dennis made a false entry on the crime report stating the form 124d and DASH questions had been completed at the scene.

The IOPC said: “Our investigation – completed in July 2019 – found evidence of a case to answer for gross misconduct for PC Dennis and gross incompetence for PC Lynham, for failure to perform their roles to a satisfactory level.

“Following discussion with the MPS we agreed both officers should face a Stage 3 gross incompetence hearing.”

After a two-day meeting, which started on Tuesday (September 8), the police panel overseeing the hearing, including an MPS commander as chairperson, found PC Dennis had committed gross incompetence, with the case proven against all her allegations.

The panel found PC Lynham gave an “unsatisfactory performance” of her duties, with the case proven against her in two of the four allegations she faced.

Ten other officers have already been dealt with for their failings in their dealings with Ms Makunova.

IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “By not doing their jobs in the way they were trained and paid to, PC Dennis and PC Lynham – and the other officers in this case – utterly failed Katrina Makunova and as a result, her family and friends.

“In addition, PC Dennis attempted to cover her tracks by lying about her investigative actions at the scene on a subsequent crime report and PC Lynham did nothing to stop this. This was unacceptable behaviour.

“Our investigation also found failings in the action of ten other MPS officers, ranging in rank from police constable to detective sergeant, relating to their dealings with Ms Makunova.”

Three officers for failing to:

  • Investigate allegations made by Ms Makunova as a victim of domestic abuse;
  • Update her as per the Victims’ Code of Practice (VCOP); and
  • Provide effective safeguarding to her as a child.

Two officers for failing to:

  • Supervise an investigation into an allegation of common assault; and
  • Supervise effective safeguarding to a child.

Four officers for failing to complete a Merlin report and the final officer was for failing to conduct proper and diligent intelligence checks in relation to Dada and Ms Makunova and failing to provide adequate safeguarding to a child.

The IOPC said actions taken against the officers were agreed with the MPS and ranged from management action to reflective practice.

An inquest into Ms Makunova’s death is expected to be held in early 2021.

The allegations faced by PC Dennis were:

1) Failed to acknowledge a member of the public was reporting a crime (harassment);

2) Failed to take positive action as a result of that allegation;

3) Failed to conduct mandatory risk assessments relating to a vulnerable victim of domestic abuse;

4) Failed to safeguard a child (Ms Makunova); and

5) Provided false and misleading information on a later crime report in regard to the above.

All allegations were proven.

The allegations against PC Lynham were:

1) Failed to acknowledge a member of the public was reporting a crime (harassment) – case proven;

2) Failed to take positive action as a result of that allegation – case proven;

3) Failed to conduct mandatory risk assessments relating to a vulnerable victim of domestic abuse – not proven; and

4) Failed to safeguard a child (Ms Makunova) – not proven.

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