Refuge renews call for public inquiry in the wake of inquest finding that murdered woman Maria Stubbings was failed by Essex Police

Today an inquest into the death of Maria Stubbings, who was murdered by her former partner Marc Chivers in December 2008, found that Maria’s killing was contributed to by a catalogue of failings by Essex Police.  These include:

  • Failure to undertake a risk assessment and safety plan in October 2008, when Chivers was released from prison
  • Incompetence of Domestic Abuse and Hate Crime Unit (DAHCU), in particular Domestic Abuse Liaison Officers (DALOs)
  • Incompetence of supervisors
  • Inadequate training
  • Ineffective IT systems and lack of communication between intelligence systems
  • Ineffective case management and inability to link incidents
  • Failure of frontline officers to perform basic policing duties, including failure to arrest perpetrator on numerous occasions
  • An inappropriate focus on sanctioned results
  • Significant policy breaches including downgrading Maria’s allegation of burglary without supervisors’ approval and failure to notify other agencies

The inquest finding follows an investigation last year by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which found that Essex Police “missed a large number of opportunities” to protect Maria and her son Bengi.  It concluded that police officers failed to monitor the situation, undertake rigorous risk assessment or put safety measures in place – despite being well aware of the risk posed by Chivers.

Essex Police were criticised on several other occasions in the years following Maria’s death for failing to respond appropriately to other victims of domestic violence.   The family of Maria Stubbings and national domestic violence charity Refuge are calling on the Government to launch a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to victims of domestic violence.

 

Manuel Fernandez, Celia Peachey, and Bengi StubbingsManuel Fernandez (Maria’s brother), Celia Peachey (Maria’s daughter) and Bengi Stubbings (Maria’s son) said:

“After six years of fighting for justice we are grateful to the jury for their finding of a huge catalogue of police failures in the final days of Maria’s life that contributed to her death at the hands of Marc Chivers.  And we can also announce today that the Chief Constable of Essex Police has admitted civil liability in our claim against them.  The Chief Constable has agreed a formal declaration that he failed to protect the lives of both Maria and Bengi – who, it’s important to remember, was just 15 years old at the time.  The inquest heard how Bengi was in the house with his mum’s dead body and her killer.  This could so easily have been an inquest into two deaths.

We have fought and won in honour of Maria and in the hope that things will change to protect others in her name.  But from the evidence we’ve seen from frontline officers at this inquest, we’re afraid that change is not something that will happen any time soon.  When any force operates without heart, compassion or accountability it is destined to fail.  As far as we’re concerned, Maria’s murder is as much the fault of Essex Police as the murderer himself.  Essex Police knew Maria’s killer had killed a previous girlfriend.  They prosecuted him for a previous assault on Maria and he’d gone to prison.  They assessed Maria as being at high risk of death or serious harm from Chivers.  Yet when she called asking for help, they found every excuse to do nothing.  The level of incompetence, the lack of basic policing, the failure to communicate key information – words fail us.  Ultimately, Maria paid the price for these failings with her life.

Change at local level is promised.  We’ll wait and see if it translates into change on the ground.  But even if it does, change at local level is not enough.  The truth is that many, many women up and down the country are failed as Maria was failed.  That’s why Refuge and Maria’s family are calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and other agencies to domestic abuse.  We urge everyone to join us in this call by signing the petition.”

 

The family’s solicitor, Sarah Ricca of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said:

“The jury’s findings are a shocking indictment of Essex Police’s response to Maria’s calls for help.  Marc Chivers had a previous conviction for domestic homicide and a history of violence against Maria.  Despite this, and the fact that she was assessed as being at high risk of homicide when she called to report that he was ‘hanging around’ and had burgled her home, police effectively did nothing.  Mounting concern about Maria’s safety amongst some officers failed to translate into positive action.”

 

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive, RefugeSandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Maria was failed by Essex Police on a shocking scale.  Officers responding to her failed to undertake their most basic duties, and these failings ultimately contributed to her tragic death.  The force has given endless promises that it will improve the way it responds to domestic violence, and yet since Maria’s murder it has been criticised for failing to protect a number of other women who died at the hands of current or former partners.  What will it take to ensure that Essex Police take violence against women seriously?  We need deeds, not words.

The truth is that Maria’s story is not a one-off.  Two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence – and too many of these women are let down by the state in their hour of need.  That’s why Refuge and Maria’s family are demanding change.  We are calling on the Government to open a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to victims of domestic violence.  We need to uncover the truth – to understand why women and children are still not getting the support and protection they deserve.  We must not let Maria’s death be in vain.  Please add your voice to our campaign and sign our petition calling for a public inquiry.”    

 

 Photography copyright Julian Nieman