10,000 women and children at risk of homicide

Figures obtained by The Guardian show that more than 10,000 women and children are at risk of being murdered or seriously injured by current or former partners. But this figure is likely to be an underestimate due to inconsistencies between police forces when recording risk assessments.

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of RefugeSandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, national domestic violence charity, says:

“Risk assessment is not an end in itself – it should not be seen as a ‘tick-box exercise’.  Risk assessment must lead to risk management. There is no point in doing a risk assessment if the knowledge gained from this process does not lead to proactive safety planning measures that keep women and children safe from violent men.

I am deeply concerned that – in too many cases – this does not happen.  All too often, risk assessments sit on file gathering dust whilst women and children remain in grave danger.

During the inquest into the death of Rachael and Auden Slack, evidence showed that Derbyshire Police correctly assessed both mother and son as being at high risk of homicide – but they failed to inform Rachael of their assessment, thereby depriving her of the opportunity to make an informed decision about her safety.

The inquest into the death of Cassie Hasanovic also heard evidence that Sussex Police had identified her as being at high risk prior to her death. In her summing up, the coroner noted that the officer completing Cassie’s risk assessment had not had training in this process.  On the day Cassie died, police did not escort her and her two sons to a refuge – in spite of her requests for them to do so.

Poor practice around risk management is just one example of state failure in relation to victims of domestic violence.  The list of ways in which women are failed is painfully long.  Negative attitudes are rife: all too often, abused women are met with apathy, disbelief and outright hostility from officers.  Failure to properly investigate reports, collect evidence or arrest the perpetrator is also common.

The scale of state failure is breathtaking.  It is a huge national problem – a problem of systemic proportions.  That’s why Refuge is calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to victims of domestic violence. Please sign our petition.”