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Changing the law to change attitudes
Changing the law to change attitudes

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women Refuge CEO Sandra Horley CBE was interviewed by the British Council. Sandra is a committed campaigner on behalf of abused women and children who advises governments internationally on gender-based violence and criminal justice. She looks back at an innovative workshop on women’s rights that she delivered in Mangochi, Southern Malawi, in 1995 at the invitation of the British Council. It resulted in the criminalisation of marital rape in Malawi. But was a change in the law enough to change things? Reena Johl, Country Director, Malawi, goes on to tell us about the progress since that time and what still needs to done. Remembering 1995 – Sandra Horley Back in 1992, I was delighted to receive a letter from Liliana Biglou – the Country Director of the British Council in Malawi at the time – inviting me to run a workshop on domestic violence in Mangochi, in the southern end of Lake Malawi. At the time, this was an innovative and highly controversial project for Liliana to bring to Malawi. She asked me to give a keynote speech and to bring lessons and learning from the UK to help Malawi devise its own, local, solutions to the global problem of domestic violence. Refuge was undergoing great change in those days, and my small team and I were working, flat-out, to turn a small local charity with a handful of shelters in London, into a national lifeline for abused women and children with a national 24 hour helpline and an infrastructure of support services up and down the country. I had given evidence in a number of high-profile murder and manslaughter cases where the accused was an abused woman and a few months later the then HRH Princess Diana would help us relaunch the organisation under the new name of Refuge. We were extremely outspoken on the UK’s inadequate police response to victims of domestic violence and Liliana had heard us campaigning in the media as we continued to shine a light on gender inequality and pull domestic violence out of the shadows. The British Council had convened a wide range of key civil society influencers – judges, politicians, tribal chiefs, women’s rights campaigners – and we enjoyed three or four days of robust discussion and heated debate. I was struck, as the week progressed by just how receptive the audience was on the whole. Because I cannot overstate how radical – and truly ground-breaking – it felt back then, to stand in front of the Malawian judiciary and argue that a man had no right to rape and beat his wife. Many of the senior members of the judiciary – including the Chief Justice – simply did not agree. To say it was controversial was a huge understatement. After all, rape in marriage had only been criminalised in the UK the year before and many people still felt that domestic violence was a private issue that should be kept behind closed doors. In the UK it was still seen as controversial to point out that domestic violence was against the law and that men had no right to abuse and intimidate their wives and children. But during this workshop, which Liliana had bravely convened, the sense of possibility in the air was palpable and we managed to galvanise that goodwill and appetite for change. And shortly afterwards, I was ecstatic to learn that Malawi had passed a law criminalising rape in marriage. It is such an honour to have been able to witness and play a part in such a fine example of institutional and attitudinal change in action. People often ask me how I change attitudes to domestic violence because it’s not easy to uproot generations of negative attitudes and prejudice that enable abuse to thrive in any society. But I think the best way to attempt to do it is to try to get people to understand that domestic violence affects everyone and that everyone has a duty to put an end to it. Because it is a human rights issue. It is in all our interests to ensure that women and children can be safe and free. I try to show people the impact of abuse – on the individual – and on the whole society – to show people the debilitating cost of domestic violence and the importance of positioning it firmly in the context of criminal justice. Looking back now, the visit to Malawi was important for so many reasons. It was my first visit to Africa, as a start, and it was one of the very first international visits that I conducted in my capacity as CEO of Refuge, to share learning and work with other countries to develop joint strategies to tackle violence against women. I have since taken part in many similar programmes with the British Council, including, most recently, a programme in Egypt to reduce domestic violence and increase the capacity of the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. And this time last year I was honoured to visit China and Vietnam, looking at the nexus between domestic violence, human trafficking and modern slavery. But not only that, it has formed the basis of a life-long friendship with Liliana. Looking at Malawi today – Reena Johl Looking back at the achievements of the British Council and our partners allows us to appreciate the impact we make. Yet it also calls attention to the work still to be done. That landmark change in the law in Malawi was only one step on a long journey to change attitudes. Honurable Justice Zione Ntaba, a Chevening Scholar and currently the youngest female judge in Malawi explains her concerns. ‘Despite Malawi having a robust legal system in terms of protection of human rights there are still concerns around gender-based violence, especially intimate partner violence. A solid review on sexual offences is warranted. For instance, marital rape continues to be a silent crime in Malawi.’ A law is of benefit, only if a society feels it should use it. In Malawi the first national survey into violence against children and young women in 2013 (funded by DFID) found that two in five females and one in five males aged 18-24 believed it’s acceptable for a man to beat his wife in some circumstances. Furthermore, 40 per cent aged 13-24 years believed a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family together. Alongside work with formal legislation and law enforcement, those working to end violence against women and girls (VAWG) are concentrating on prevention, starting with the young. This is something we are particularly well placed to address as a cultural relations organisation as it focuses on understanding and challenging cultural norms around gender based violence and ultimately changing attitudes and behaviours. In Festival of Ideas, a youth engagement project which used creative means to explore accountability with a thousand young Malawians, almost 50 per cent identified genderbased violence and sexual harassment in schools and the community at large as an issue they were concerned about. More importantly they were motivated to take action and make a change. We are launching the final stage of the project this November, which will support a selected group to develop and implement a campaign among their peers and school communities to raise awareness of their rights and responsibilities. This all highlights that we must not rest or get complacent. Across the region in SubSaharan Africa, we are marking the UN Elimination of Violence against Women day on 25 November and participating in the following 16 days of activism. The 2017 theme is ‘Leave no one behind – end violence against women and girls’. In Malawi we are will be working with local partners on a targeted social media campaign, sharing content generated by young Malawians to create awareness amongst young people.

New programme to tackle technological abuse
New programme to tackle technological abuse

Refuge launches new programme to tackle technological abuse and empower women victims to unlock the opportunities technology brings On 31 October 2017, Refuge launched a new programme to tackle technological abuse and economic and technological exclusion, caused by the growing misuse of modern technology against victims of domestic abuse. Increasing evidence suggests tools and technology from mobile phones and social media to online banking and satnavs are being misused by abusive men to track, isolate, harass, and control their partners. Research from Comic Relief in 2016 showed 4 in 5 women who had experienced domestic abuse had seen their activity monitored by their partner. Through a dedicated programme, funded by Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, Refuge will help protect women from this kind of abuse, and empower them to use technology safely and unlock the opportunities it affords. The Google.org grant will allow Refuge to train 300 frontline professionals and set up a dedicated, expert unit to help Refuge’s clients stay safe. Refuge will also launch new digital resources and targeted campaigns to raise awareness and provide support. Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist services for survivors of violence – domestic violence,  modern slavery, human trafficking, rape and other forms of violence and abuse. Every week, two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. And every day Refuge offers face-to-face support to 6,000 women and children. Refuge’s new technological abuse and empowerment programme will ensure its expert team and the services it runs keeps pace with the new threats women face. Euleen Hope, domestic abuse survivor says: “My ex set up a shared account for both of our phones to share apps – but that meant he could download software packages to track me. He exploited the fact that technology wasn’t really my thing – to control me and my life.” Bethany Ashley, domestic abuse survivor, says: “The abuse made me feel harassed. I left my phone at home because he constantly messaged me. I’ve really struggled with anxiety ever since.” Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said: “I am delighted to announce the start of this fantastic new initiative which is being enabled by Google. Now, we’ll be able to tackle the misuse of technology and empower abused women to use technology safely and unlock the opportunities it affords. “Imagine if somebody who wanted to humiliate you could access everything you do online. If somebody who wanted to control you could empty your bank account with the click of a mouse. If somebody who wanted to hurt you could follow your every move on his phone. For the thousands of women subjected to technological abuse, that is reality. “With Google.org’s grant, and seed funding from Comic Relief and the Government’s ‘tampon tax’, we are going to deliver a transformative tech informed service for survivors of domestic violence. With world-class training and state-of-the-art data analysis, Refuge will build new tools and campaigns to keep women safe, whilst enabling them to take back control of technology. “At Refuge, we listen to women. This project was born out of our clients’ experiences of technology-related abuse, and we will continue to make sure their needs and experiences shape our work in the years ahead. Together we can make sure that modern technology empowers women, rather than imprison them.” Jacquelline Fuller, Vice President, Google and President of Google.org, said: “Technology companies have a duty to ensure our platforms are used responsibly, and at Google we take this extremely seriously. With this partnership we want to help find solutions to these new challenges and positively transform the lives of women who are impacted by them. We’re excited to see the results of this programme in the years to come.” Refuge’s technological abuse and empowerment programme 300 frontline professionals will receive pioneering new training which will equip them to tackle technological and economic abuse head-on, from learning how abusers can exploit technology to directly deleting spyware and other malicious apps and software. To ensure this service keeps pace with the rapidly-evolving world of modern technology, a core team will receive world-class, high-intensity training to become Refuge’s in-house experts, monitoring trends in technology-related abuse and providing regular training to their colleagues. To extend the impact of this project, Refuge will also create and distribute new digital resources and run targeted campaigns to explain the issue and provide support. Beyond the front line, Refuge will be upgrading IMPACT, its unique case-management system, to provide first-class data on how technological abuse is closely connected to physical domestic violence. This will not only inform Refuge’s own advocacy work but will be widely shared with the police, other agencies, and government ministers to make sure they understand how technology is misused against women. Euleen Hope Euleen was with her abusive partner for 10 years. As well as abusing her physically and emotionally, he used technology as a way to track her movements. He tracked her calls and text messages, and installed cameras in and around her house Her ex was convicted of GBH May 2015 and three counts of common assault after putting her in hospital. He was given three year sentence – 18 months in prison and 18 months on licence supervised by the probation service She has since accessed support from Refuge which has helped her to rebuild her life – and she now volunteers to support other women experiencing domestic violence   Bethany Ashley Twenty year old Beth is a blogger and a student who was with an abusive boyfriend when she was a teenager After breaking up with him, he would use social media channels to harass and stalk her, her mum and her friends. When she blocked him, he set up new accounts She deliberately distanced herself from social media because she didn’t enjoy using it any more – which isolated her as a young person and as a blogger She is safe now and has moved away to study at university She has been supported by Refuge to speak out about her experience and let other women know they’re not alone For more information on tech abuse see our main tech abuse section on our website 

Refuge responds to the latest HMIC report
Refuge responds to the latest HMIC report

Refuge responds to the latest HMIC report on police response to domestic violence Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge says: “HMICFRS report makes for very grim reading.   Refuge is deeply concerned that despite an abundance of good intentions and training initiatives, little appears to have changed for victims of domestic abuse. We are particularly worried to discover that there has been a fall in the number of arrests made and referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service.  It is abundantly clear that the current policy of police discretion in cases of domestic violence is not working and that the abuse of women is still not being taken seriously by the police.  Judgemental, negative and sexist attitudes towards abused women are deeply entrenched in police culture and society as a whole.  It is clear we need massive radical change.    “Refuge, like the police, has experienced an increase in demand without a corresponding increase in resources. We are overstretched and need additional support for services including the national domestic violence helpline which is under threat. In spite of this, we continue to provide a safe, compassionate and responsive service to 6000 women and children on any given day. These victims need and deserve police protection.  This should not be discretionary. “Refuge has been calling for a mandatory arrest and charge policy where there are reasonable grounds in cases of domestic violence, as in Canada. "It is timely that the Government is introducing a new domestic violence Bill. It is crucial that violence against women and girls is made explicit on the face of the Bill and that it is finally treated with the seriousness that it deserves. “Refuge is pleased that the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, is continuing to bring national oversight to the issue of police response to domestic violence A spokesperson is available for comment. For more information and to arrange an interview please contact press@refuge.org.uk 0207 395 7731 | 07970 894240 (out of hours)

Refuge supports Evening Standard’s ‘Slaves On Our Streets’ campaign
Refuge supports Evening Standard’s ‘Slaves On Our Streets’ campaign

Refuge CEO Sandra Horley CBE was interviewed by the evening Standard about how refuge has supported victims of modern slavery. See the interview here.  Refuge is supporting the Evening Standard's campaign to expose the realities of modern slavery in London, reach out to victims and raise funds for specialist services Estimated 46m people enslaved across the world (Walk Free Foundation) Government figures suggest there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims in the UK (National Crime Agency’s 2016 end of year report) 71% trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls (UNODC 2016 Global Report) On Tuesday 12 September 2017, London’s Evening Standard launched its ground-breaking ‘Slaves On Our Streets’ campaign, to raise awareness of modern slavery in the capital. Refuge is working with the Evening Standard and ITV News to reach victims and raise funds for the charity’s vital specialist support services. Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: “I’m delighted that Refuge is a partner in this ground breaking new campaign to tackle modern slavery on the streets of London and reach out to victims who urgently need protection.   “Every day, Refuge sees victims who are trapped, terrorised, beaten and raped. They are traumatised, isolated and unaware of their rights. With 45 years of experience in supporting victims, we know that what they need is confidential support from independent organisations like Refuge, in their own language, to get to safety and rebuild their lives.   “It is unacceptable that modern slavery thrives in London in 2017, and we must shine a light on this evil trade and ensure that victims are helped at the earliest opportunity. We look forward to working with the Standard and our other partners to tell the stories of London’s victims and bring much needed change.” ITV News On Monday 11 September, Refuge’s Modern Slavery Service was featured on ITV News at 10pm. Julie Etchingham interviewed Sandra Horley and Thanh, a Vietnamese national who was trafficked to the UK and who experienced modern slavery. Thanh has since been supported by Refuge to rebuild her life, free from fear. Julie Etchingham described her experience as ‘the most harrowing story of human trafficking I’ve ever heard.’ Thanh said: “After 15 years old, they like me to sleep with other men…sometimes 10, sometimes more than 10 in one day. My back is not straight, partly because how I’ve been used as a sex slave.” Watch the clip and read more about Julie’s interview. CASE STUDY: Anh’s* story One of Refuge’s specialist community outreach workers tells Anh’s story: “Anh* had been trafficked into forced labour ten years ago. The traffickers regularly subjected her to physical, financial and psychological abuse. She had insecure immigration status and her traffickers ensured she would not seek help by regularly threatening deportation.   “Anh was deeply traumatised – she was very tearful and suffered nightmares every night. She told me she found it difficult to look in the mirror because all she could see was a very old and grey person looking back in the reflection. She worried constantly about her health deteriorating and feared that nobody would be able to identify her if she died or had an accident. “No-one will know who I belong to”, she told me.   “At regular key work sessions, communicating in Vietnamese and at her own pace, I helped her explore the abuse she experienced and accept that it was not her fault. Slowly, she became more confident, and felt able to share more about her experiences and how they were affecting her on a daily basis.   “I was able to refer her to specialist counselling and organised several emergency appointments with an immigration lawyer. We also obtained temporary accommodation and helped her to access a weekly personal allowance. Now, my client tells me she feels there is hope for the future. She can smile again.”   *Names have been changed to protect anonymity To access confidential support call Refuge’s Modern Slavery Service on: 020 7395 7722 or email: modernslavery@refuge.org.uk. To donate towards Refuge’s modern slavery work please: text REFU40 to 70070 (with donation amount – up to £10); call 020 7395 7771; or visit our Human trafficking and modern slavery page.

Register for Walk4 2017!
Register for Walk4 2017!

Walk4 is back! Register now and you will come together to build a future free from domestic violence     On Saturday 9th September you and hundreds of others can walk across four of London’s most iconic bridges, knowing every step you take means we can support the thousands of women and children who need us. 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence during their lives. We all know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, someone who needs Refuge’s support. By taking part in Walk4 you will raise vital money that will save and change lives, now and for future generations.   Registration fee: £10 (free for children under 16) Minimum sponsorship: £150 per person Distance: 10k   Find out more about the incredible day we had last year in our full report. Don't miss out in being part of another incredible day - register today. Together we are stronger. Together, we will Walk4 a world free from domestic violence. All Walk4 photography © Julian Nieman  

#15babiesaday initiative joins forces with Refuge
#15babiesaday initiative joins forces with Refuge

On Thursday 15th June Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity) erected washing lines with 15 baby grows hanging from them, in iconic locations around the UK to provoke a discussion as to why 15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. Locations for these #15babiesaday displays included the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, the London Assembly and outside parliament buildings in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. The 750 baby grows which were displayed around the UK are now being donated to anti-domestic violence charity Refuge. This is to highlight the fact that domestic violence can be a cause of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Almost one fifth (18.2%) of women who arrive at Refuge’s services are pregnant or have recently had a baby. This increases to 23% in Refuge accommodation. On average, one baby dies every 90 minutes in the UK. While the number of deaths has fallen in recent years, this is no time to be complacent. We are moving three times slower than some other European countries to save lives. The rate of mortality also varies hugely from region to region, reflecting a map of poverty and health inequality. This postcode lottery is unacceptable. Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity), said: “Our #15babiesaday initiative has provided an important opportunity to raise awareness of the fact that 15 babies die before, during and after birth every day in the UK.  The full extent of the tragedy of stillbirth and neonatal death is not widely known – leaving families feeling alone, isolated and unsure where to turn for help and support when their baby dies.  We want to change this, break the taboo, and increase our understanding of why these deaths occur.  The 15 baby grows on a washing line have been the focal point of this initiative and we are delighted to be able to send them to Refuge in the knowledge that they will help mothers and babies who have had to flee domestic violence.” Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “One third of domestic violence either starts or gets worse when a woman becomes pregnant and more than a fifth of women who access Refuge’s services are pregnant.  Women who come to our refuges often flee their abusive partners in the middle of the night taking with them nothing more than the clothes they are wearing and have very little money with which to begin a new life.  We are very grateful to Sands for the donation of baby grows which we will distribute to women across our services.  Thank you so much for this much needed support.” The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) supported #15babiesaday. Commenting, RCM’s Director of Midwifery, Louise Silverton, said: “The RCM is supporting Sands with their latest campaign #15babiesaday as we believe that it is crucial to work together to reduce antenatal stillbirths and avoidable baby deaths. “There are initiatives and training already being carried out across the UK to improve the rates of unavoidable baby deaths, but we need to ensure midwives have the time to do a thorough initial assessment of a woman, as well as ongoing risk assessments. This is where continuity of care and carer can play a crucial part and maternity services should also be reaching out to those women who are only engaging with maternity services late into their pregnancy. “We also must ensure that there are enough bereavement midwives in place to ensure that parents and families get the support they need. Our hope is that all bereaved parents receive the same level of care and support regardless of where they live in the UK.” For further information on #15babiesaday visit: www.sands.org.uk/get-involved/sands-awareness-month  

76% of domestic homicides occur shortly after a woman has left the perpetrator. Please help Refuge save lives
76% of domestic homicides occur shortly after a woman has left the perpetrator. Please help Refuge save lives

Your support really does save and change lives. Please donate to Refuge today. The point at which a woman leaves a violent partner is often the most dangerous. 76% of domestic homicides occur shortly after a woman has left the perpetrator. Refuge's outreach workers are out on the frontline, working discreetly within the community, supporting women in a variety of safe locations. The outreach team ensures women understand their options, can make informed decisions about their futures and stay safe. Your support means we can continue to provide specialist domestic violence services, including outreach support, keeping more women and children safe from violence and fear. A donation today will help Refuge save lives.     One of Refuge's outreach support workers gives her story below: ...........................................   Please forgive me for writing you a message that I cannot sign with my real name. This is because I work in the shadows, helping women abused by their partners move to a place of safety. You can understand how difficult leaving is for women – after years of being belittled, having their confidence destroyed, physically abused, and in terror of what their partner would do if they left. (Around 76% of domestic homicides occur shortly after a woman has left the perpetrator.) In my job, no two days are the same and neither are the women and children I work with. Some of my clients may have just begun to realise that their partner’s behaviour is abusive and might need guidance around keeping safe. Some women could have every detail of escape mapped out and might just need support to take the final step. Then often there is still the task of helping women brave the court system to seek protection from her partner and also custody of the children; I have to do all of this as discreetly as possible. Hiding in the shadows but always being there when needed. Most of the women will only know me by my first name. For their sake and mine, it is vital that their violent partners cannot track me down. Of course my job is very, very stressful. But it is also very, very rewarding.  I have helped many women find a place of safety and begin a new life. A Refuge outreach support worker will be handling multiple client cases at any one time. We wish we had more time to help more women – which is why I am writing this message to you. We know that giving to a charity is always a good thing, and a gift to Refuge can really make a difference to the women and children we support. This is why I am brave (and committed) enough to ask for a donation to help our courageous group of shadow helpers. Your donation could help ensure I continue to be just a phone call or text message away from helping more women out of appalling situations of violence into a new life, together with their children. I am very grateful that you have read this right to the end, and look forward to hearing from you in the near future.       Outreach support worker Refuge ...........................................  Donate to Refuge today using our secure online donation form or by calling the fundraising team on 020 7395 7771. Your support can help ensure that we can be there for more women and children who need us. Thank you for helping Refuge save lives.  

Refuge chief executive, Sandra Horley, publishes new edition of 'Power and Control'
Refuge chief executive, Sandra Horley, publishes new edition of 'Power and Control'

Refuge chief executive, Sandra Horley CBE, has published a new edition of her ground-breaking book Power and Control: why charming men can make dangerous lovers.  In Power and Control, Sandra Horley draws on over 35 years of experience supporting abused women to provide an insight into the reality behind the mask of the charming man. Since the first edition of Sandra Horley’s book, there has been a shift in public attitudes when it comes to domestic violence. Now, domestic violence appears on the front pages of newspapers and in the nation’s favourite soap operas. Legislation has been strengthened, and many more women now know there is support and they do not need to suffer in silence. Yet domestic violence remains one of the biggest issues affecting women and children in our society: One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her life Two women are killed by their current or former partner every single week in England and Wales alone The National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Refuge and Women's Aid, receives more than 86,000 calls a year, many from women fearing for their lives   It is clear that even 25 years on from the first edition of Power and Control, the pattern of men controlling women endures. What has evolved though, are some of the methods of control. Technology has a major role to play in the abuse of women and has provided abusers with an array of new weapons, which give them the power to terrorise and control a woman from a distance. Power and Control is the real story of domestic violence, a story of men whose charm hides a darker truth - the ability to inflict devastating emotional and physical damage. But ultimately it is a story of courage and strength, told by women who have reclaimed their lives so that others may too. You can buy the book here. About the Author Sandra Horley has been the Chief Executive of Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, since 1983. She has been working in the field of domestic violence for almost four decades, supporting women and children experiencing all forms of male violence and abuse. A committed campaigner on behalf of abused women and children, Sandra has not only played a pivotal role in raising the profile of domestic violence in the UK amongst the public, she has lobbied effectively for changes in government policy and legislation. She also advises governments internationally on gender-based violence and criminal justice. Sandra received a CBE in 2011 for ‘services to the prevention of domestic violence’ and an OBE in 1999 for ‘services to the protection of women and children’. Under her leadership, Refuge was named Charity of the Year 2016 at the Charity Times Awards for its outstanding services and dedication to its clients in a difficult funding climate. Refuge currently supports almost 5,000 women and children on any given day. Sandra was featured on the front page of the Guardian's Family section on Saturday 24 June, talking about the book. For more information, contact the Refuge press office on press@refuge.org.uk or 0207 395 7731. For out of hours and weekend press enquiries, please call 07970 894240. Photography copyright Julian Nieman for Refuge

Refuge responds to Queen’s Speech Domestic Violence and Abuse Act announcement
Refuge responds to Queen’s Speech Domestic Violence and Abuse Act announcement

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge welcomes the announcement that the Government is to bring forward a new draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill.  It is heartening to see that the Prime Minister remains committed to addressing an issue that claims the lives of two women every week in England and Wales, and blights the childhoods of at least 750,000 children every year. “Refuge has protected abused women and children for 45 years, and supports almost 5,000 women and children fleeing domestic violence on any given day. “We are working with the Government to ensure that this new Act will bring the sea change that is needed to give survivors the protection and support they need and deserve, and end domestic violence once and for all. We hope that the pre-legislative scrutiny process will give sufficient time to allow Parliament to consider all necessary reform, including in the criminal justice and legal systems. “We are delighted to see that the Bill will include a new statutory definition of domestic violence and abuse. Refuge also welcomes confirmation that there will be a new Courts Bill which will finally prevent domestic violence victims being directly cross-examined by their perpetrators in the family courts. “It is vital that the Government makes available sufficient funding and training to ensure that the new legislation has a meaningful impact on the lives of women and children who experience domestic violence. “Time is of the essence when it comes to the danger that women and children face on a daily basis. Therefore we are also pleased the Government is committed to looking at what can be achieved outside of the bill process to deliver fast improvements for women at risk of violence.” For more information, contact the Refuge press office on press@refuge.org.uk or 0207 395 7731. For out of hours and weekend press enquiries, please call 07970 894240.

Surrey police firearms licencing officer sacked for failings in case concerning shooting of Christine and Lucy Lee
Surrey police firearms licencing officer sacked for failings in case concerning shooting of Christine and Lucy Lee

An IPCC report published today confirms that a Surrey police firearms licencing officer has been sacked for failings in relation to the return of shotguns to John Lowe, one of which was subsequently used to kill Christine and Lucy Lee in February 2014. A firearms licencing supervisor retired before he could face a disciplinary hearing. The IPCC report details a litany of failings leading to the return of the shotguns, which the police had removed after receiving a report that John Lowe had threatened to shoot the daughter and sister of Christine and Lucy, Stacy Banner. The report makes recommendations to improve firearms licencing locally and nationally. The IPCC has also published a second report concerning the arrest and detention of Stacy Banner a few weeks after the killing of her mother and sister. The IPCC has concluded that an inspector has a case to answer in disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct. Stacy was arrested at her home, with her children upstairs in bed, and was held in police custody overnight, despite her obvious distress and extreme vulnerability. No further action was taken in relation to any criminal charges. According to the report into the shootings, the police held the following information indicating John Lowe was not suitable to retain a firearms licence, in addition to the allegation of the threat to shoot Stacy Banner: Reports of domestic abuse, including previous threats to kill; Evidence of association with criminals; Report of involvement in a burglary; Evidence of alcohol abuse; Evidence of impaired mental functioning and/or other medical conditions relevant to the suitability to hold firearms; Evidence of dishonesty in his previous application for a firearms licence (failure to disclose a criminal offence; failure to disclose relevant medical history). The report also discloses wholesale failings on the part of Surrey police firearms licencing department in their investigation of the threat to kill Stacy Banner, including: accepting the account of John Lowe in relation to the threats to kill, without apprising themselves of information obtained by the investigating officer, and without reading the witness statements of Stacy Banner or two witnesses to threats to kill; applying the criminal standard of proof to the allegation of a threat to kill in deciding whether it provided sufficient grounds to justify rescinding the shotguns licence; failing to review the file and other records to check what other information was known to the police about John Lowe’s suitability to hold shotguns; failing to identify that John Lowe was a domestic abuser. The report also confirms that Stacy was not told that the firearms had been returned to John Lowe. As a result she was not able to complain about this to the force or warn her mother and sister about the risk they faced. The report also finds that at force level, there was inappropriate delegation of the Chief Constable’s licencing powers, and there was inadequate training including in relation to domestic abuse. Stacy Banner has now asked the Senior Coroner for Surrey, Richard Travers, to resume the inquest into the deaths of Christine and Lucy Lee. His decision is awaited. She also plans to bring a civil claim against the Chief Constable of Surrey police. Stacy Banner said, “These reports show that I was right all along about my concerns about Surrey police’s failings. It is devastating to see your worst fears confirmed in black and white about how those entrusted with the public safety can abuse and neglect their powers. But for the police’s failings, my mum and sister would be here today. To then find myself detained overnight contrary to the law, as the report confirms, in the same police station - possibly the same cell - where my mum and sister’s killer had been held, beggars belief. Now I want to see change nationally on how the police deal with firearms licencing. Changes were promised after the Michael Atherton case – but still my mother and sister are dead. Enough is enough.” Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said, “It takes a great deal to shock me. I have been campaigning to improve the police response to domestic violence for forty years. But I am shocked that Surrey Police decided to return five shotguns to John Lowe – a dangerous, violent, man with a history of domestic violence and other crime, after he threatened to shoot his stepdaughter, Stacy Banner, dead. And that they decided they did not need to take further action to investigate Stacy’s allegation in spite of independent witness evidence. But that decision was made even more devastating when John Lowe went on to use those very same guns to kill Stacy’s sister and mother – Lucy and Christine Lee. He even said he would have killed Stacy, too, if he had had time. “I am relieved the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has finally completed its investigation. It has taken three years – an agonising wait for Stacy and the rest of her family. It is appropriate that one of the officers responsible for that devastating decision to return the guns has been sacked. But I am sorry that another has retired before the IPCC came to its conclusion. Two women are killed every single week in England and Wales by a violent partner or former partner. There have been countless reports, investigations, homicide reviews, serious case reviews, inquests – the list goes on. And yes, there have been improvements. But Refuge supports 5,000 women and children every day. Many of them have begged the police for help. Things are not changing fast enough. Stacy repeatedly warned the police about Lowe. It is a tragedy they did not take her seriously. And Refuge supports Stacy’s call for an inquest to get answers to all the other questions the IPCC decided not to examine.” Stacy’s solicitor, Sarah Ricca of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said, “The IPCC recommendations in this shocking case include that the licensing team should liaise with officers investigating allegations against firearms license holders. In other words, the IPCC is recommending that licensing team staff do their job. It is a vindication for Stacy Banner that staff faced dismissal proceedings and one was sacked, and that both local and national recommendations have been made. It is further vindication that the IPCC has found that officers, including a senior officer, should face disciplinary action arising from Stacy’s arrest and detention, just weeks after the killing of her mother and sister. It is a bitter reality for Stacy that if Surrey police had shown similar zeal in relation to the policing of John Lowe, her mother and sister could still be alive today.” Contact the Refuge press office on press@refuge.org.uk or 0207 395 7731. For out of hours and weekend press enquiries, please call 07970 894240. Image: Stacy Banner with photographs of her mother, Christine Lee, and her sister, Lucy Lee. Copyright Julian Nieman for Refuge. Notes to editors Christine and Lucy Lee were shot and killed by John Lowe at Keepers Cottage Stud farm, near Guildford, Surrey, on 23 February 2014. John Lowe pleaded not guilty to murder but was convicted on 29 October 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment on 31 October 2014 at Guildford Crown Court. John Lowe had seven shotguns. These were removed from him in May 2013 after Stacy Banner reported to the police that he had threatened to kill her at gunpoint. Five of the seven guns were returned to him on 11 July 2013. The IPCC report on the Michael Atherton case can be found here            

 

 

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