Refuge responds to the outcome of an inquest into the deaths of Rachael and Auden Slack
Inquest into deaths finds failings by Derbyshire Police
An inquest into the deaths of Rachael Slack, 38, and her son Auden, 23 months, in 2010 closed today. The jury found that failures by the police made more than a minimal contribution to Rachael and Auden’s deaths.
Hayden and Melony Slack, Rachael Slack’s brother and sister-in-law, say:
“The Sunday before last, 13th October, Rachael should have been celebrating her 42nd birthday. We would have been swapping stories about her fabulous and fun 40th birthday party and reflecting on how Auden had coped with his first half term at school. Perhaps we would have been laughing as we watched Auden run around and play with his little brother and listening to Rachael’s plans for the toddler’s third birthday in November. From time to time the festivities would be punctuated by Rachael’s unique, infectious laugh and she would have almost certainly been jollying her mum along by saying ‘Come on Jean’.
“Instead we have spent the last five weeks in the Coroner’s Court in Derby, hearing of the failings of Derbyshire police after they assessed both Rachael and Auden as being at high risk of homicide. We have also heard concerning evidence about the failure of the police and mental health to share information. We are very grateful to the coroner and the jury for their work in ensuring that these failings have been brought to light.
“The space that has been left in our lives by the tragic loss of Rachael and Auden will never be filled and never should be. Rachael was a devoted mother, a beautiful and truly caring person with a positive outlook on life. We hope that the jury’s findings that the police failings contributed to the deaths of Rachael and Auden, and the various reports to be made by the coroner will ensure that lessons are learned that could protect the lives of other women and children threatened by domestic violence – a problem the coroner described as an “epidemic”. And we add our voice to the calls of Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, and other families such as the family of Maria Stubbings for a public inquiry into state failings in response to domestic violence.”
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, says:
“This inquest has shone a spotlight on a number of failings made by Derbyshire Police that contributed to the deaths of Rachael Slack, 38, and her son Auden Slack, 23 months. I am shocked and saddened that the police did not do more to protect Rachael and Auden. Lessons must be learned from their tragic deaths – we must not let their killings be in vain.
“Despite making an assessment that Rachael and Auden were both at high risk of homicide, Derbyshire Police failed to discuss with Rachael adequate steps that could have been taken to address the risks to Auden. The police also failed to inform Rachael that they had assessed her and Auden as being at high risk of homicide. As a result, Rachael was denied the opportunity to make an informed choice about her and Auden’s safety.
“The reality is that Rachael and Auden’s case is not a one-off. Domestic violence is an epidemic – a blight on our society. Every week two women are killed by current or former partners. In many of these cases, women and children are let down by the police and other state agencies in the weeks and months leading up to their deaths. Numerous reports from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show evidence of police failure in domestic homicides. Some of these failures are in the most basic of police duties: responding to 999 calls, undertaking risk assessments, taking steps to protect vulnerable victims. Refuge supports 3,000 women and children on any given day and the feedback they give us confirms this bleak picture. Across the country, women and children are being failed by those agencies that have a duty to protect them.
“This is not good enough. That’s why Refuge is calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence. We need to discover the truth about what’s going wrong. A public inquiry would not just look at individual cases or individual police forces – it would look at the national picture. It would connect the dots between a domestic homicide in Essex and a domestic homicide in Manchester. A public inquiry would be open and transparent, looking at the role played by all state agencies, including the CPS, health and social services – not just the police. It would also hear from a wide range of witnesses, including victims, families who have lost loved ones, and expert organisations like Refuge.
“A Stephen Lawrence style public inquiry would look at the police and state response to domestic violence from every angle. Refuge believes that women and children deserve no less.
“A public inquiry would help to identify what’s going wrong. It would help to identify why the death toll taken by domestic violence has been stuck at such an alarmingly high level for so long. It would help to identify what steps need to be taken to protect future women and children from harm. How many more women and children like Rachael and Auden must die before the police and other state agencies start taking this issue seriously? How many more lives will be lost before they act?”
Refuge is calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to women and children experiencing domestic violence. Sign the petition – click here
Sarah Ricca, solicitor for the family of Rachael and Auden Slack, says:
“The particular tragedy of this case is that the lives of Rachael and Auden were lost after they were both assessed as being at high risk of homicide. Why did this assessment not lead to steps to protect Rachael and Auden, who as a very young child is owed separate and even more pressing obligations by the authorities? What makes it so difficult for the police and other agencies to get it right on domestic violence? We need a public inquiry to get to the bottom of this pressing question.”