Refuge awarded Liberty Human Rights Award for campaign calling for public inquiry into the police and state response to domestic violence

Last night Refuge won the prestigious ‘Close to Home’ award at the Liberty Human Rights Awards 2014, for its campaign calling for a public inquiry into the response of the police and other state agencies to victims of domestic violence.


Launched in May 2013, Refuge’s public inquiry campaign is backed by a number of families whose loved ones have been killed by current or former partners in cases where the police or other state agencies failed to protect them.

Several family members were also present at the awards ceremony, including Hayden and Melony Slack. Hayden’s sister Rachael was killed by her ex-partner, Andrew Cairns, in 2010. Cairns also killed her two-year-old son Auden. In 2013 an inquest found that Derbyshire Police made a number of failings that contributed to their deaths.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Hayden and Melony Slack said:
“We are delighted that Refuge has won Liberty’s Human Rights “Close to Home” Award 2014 for their campaign calling for a public inquiry into the response to domestic violence by the police and other State agencies. Refuge is a truly worthy recipient of this award. Our family are profoundly grateful for the continued support and guidance Refuge have given us since Rachael and her toddler son Auden were murdered in 2010, particularly through the inquest last year in which the jury found that police failings had more than minimally contributed to their deaths. We urge others join us in supporting Refuge in their call for a public inquiry.”


Pictured left to right: Bengi Stubbings, Celia Peachey, Sandra Horley CBE and Hayden and Melony Slack

Also present at the ceremony were Celia Peachey and Bengi Stubbings, the daughter and son of Maria Stubbings, who was murdered by her ex-partner, Marc Chivers, in 2008. In October 2014 an inquest found that Essex Police made a number of failings that contributed to Maria’s death.

Speaking after the inquest, Celia and Bengi said:
“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 we and Refuge 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 our petition at”

The award was accepted by Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge. Sandra said:
“I am accepting this award on behalf of all the families who have lost loved ones to domestic violence up and down the country. Together we will continue to call for a public inquiry and speak out for the dead in order to protect the living. I am also accepting this award for all the women and children who are, sadly, no longer with us. They were all beloved daughters, sisters and mothers, and they are the reason we will continue to fight for justice.”

For more information about our public inquiry campaign please click here.

Photo credit: Julian Nieman