Call for a public inquiry into the state response to domestic violence

Too often, the police and other state agencies fail to protect women and children experiencing domestic violence. Refuge hears time and again from women who feel let down by the police and other agencies.

In September 2013 the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to undertake a national inspection of the police response to domestic violence. Over six months, HMIC visited all police forces across the country to look at how they respond to victims of domestic violence.

In their 2014 report, HMIC came to to a stark conclusion: the police response to domestic violence was “not good enough”.

In the report, HMIC recommended that there should be a further inspection of wider agencies that respond to victims of domestic violence. Together with a number of families who had lost loved ones to domestic violence, Refuge called on the Government to open a public inquiry into the issue. The petition reached more than 56,000 signatures.

Read Sandra Horley’s statement on the public inquiry here.


The families’ stories

Maria Stubbings was killed by her ex-partner, Marc Chivers – a man who was known to police, having served a life sentence for killing another ex-girlfriend – in 2008.

Manuel Fernandez (pictured far left), Maria’s brother, says: “The police say lessons have been learned – but then we read about other cases where Essex Police and other forces have failed women in Maria’s situation. That’s why we’re calling for a public inquiry. We want justice for Maria and for all women facing domestic violence who are failed by the state.”

Sharon de souzaCassie Hasanovic was killed by her estranged husband, Hajrudin Hasanovic, in 2008.

Sharon de Souza, Cassie’s mother, says:  “My daughter Cassie was a beautiful, courageous young woman, who did everything within her power to protect herself and her children. She was a wonderful mother whose greatest wish was the chance to watch her children grow up.  Although her situation was in the hands of three different agencies, ultimately these agencies let her down. The jury have unanimously decided what we always felt: that there were a number of serious failings by all three state agencies that ultimately impacted on her chance to a life.  I would like to end by supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry in the hope that another family does not have to go through what we have.”

SlacksRachael and Auden Slack were killed by Rachael’s ex-partner, Andrew Cairns, in 2010.

Hayden and Melony Slack, Rachael Slack’s brother and sister-in-law, say: “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, an intelligent, trusting and truly caring young woman. Last year, a jury inquest found that police failings contributed to the deaths of Rachael and Auden. We hope that this finding will help ensure that the police learn lessons and instigate necessary changes to their approach and procedures in order to protect the lives of other women and children deemed to be at risk of domestic violence – a problem the Coroner described as an “epidemic”. And we add our voice to the calls of Refuge and other families such as that of Maria Stubbings for a public inquiry into state failings in response to domestic violence.”

Linah Keza was killed by her ex-partner, David Gikawa, in July 2013.

Ivan Kigenza, Linah’s brother, says: “I would ask the police really to listen so hard to women. This could have been prevented. David was not only a danger to Linah, he was a danger to anybody. Our cry, to the Government as well, is to take really robust action against this, so the next generation, our children, your children, your grandchildren, should never face this again.”

Sabina Akhtar was killed by her husband, Malik Mannan, in 2008.

Reaz and Rasheda Talukder, Sabina’s uncle and aunt, say: “Sabina was loved very dearly by her family and friends – she was a brave woman and was devoted to her son. We are adding our voices to Refuge’s campaign for a public inquiry because we want to continue to fight against the injustice that other women like Sabina experience.”

Christine and Lucy LeeChristine and Lucy Lee, mother and daughter, were killed by Christine’s partner, John Lowe, in 2014.

Stacy Banner, sister to Lucy and daughter to Christine, says: “I had heard the statistic that two women are killed every week by a partner or ex-partner. But I never thought that one week those two women would be my two women – my mum and my sister. Domestic violence has to stop. It is unacceptable that so many women and children still live in fear for their lives and are so let down by the agencies designed to protect them. There needs to be a public inquiry into what is going wrong. In memory of my mum, Christine, and my sister, Lucy.”

Colette Lynch was killed by her ex-partner, Percy Wright, in 2005.

Joseph Lynch, Colette’s brother, says: “I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry in memory of my dear sister, Colette. So many of the deaths taken by domestic violence are preventable. The police, social services, mental health services and the Crown Prosecution Service need to get the basics right. My message we have is clear – do your jobs properly and prevent the preventable.”

Katie Summers was killed by her ex-partner, Brian Taylor, in 2008.

Sarah Summers (pictured right), Katie’s sister, says: “I want to see real change in the way that women experiencing domestic violence are treated by the criminal justice system. Too many police officers, judges and social workers still don’t understand the severity of this crime. That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry. I am speaking out in Katie’s name – to help other women and children get the support they need.”

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Gurda Dhaliwal took her life in 2005 following years of violent abuse from her husband.

Nav Jagpal, Gurda’s brother, says: “My beloved sister Gurda ended her life in February 2005 after 20 years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her violent husband. I was sickened when in May 2006 he was acquitted by the court. I will continue to fight for justice for women experiencing domestic violence. That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry into the police and state response to victims of domestic violence.”

hannah fisherHannah Fisher was killed by her ex-partner, Simon Marsh, in 2009.

Debbie Buttars, Hannah’s mother, says: “I can’t help Hannah anymore but I feel I need to do something positive, to ensure that there is a benefit from the huge tragedy of her loss. Hopefully by raising awareness of domestic violence I can help other families avoid what we have been through – and what we continue to go through. That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry.”

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