This is an excerpt from Professor Joanne Conaghan’s inaugural lecture at the University of Bristol on 19 February 2015.
Joanne has written extensively about issues relating to gender and law and is widely recognized as a leading scholar in that field, both nationally and internationally. You can follow Joanne on twitter: @joanneconaghan.
Read the full text of Civil liability: Addressing police failures in the context of rape, domestic and sexual abuse
Real lives, real people
This is Joanna Michael.
Joanna lived in Cardiff, a Mum to two young children, aged 7 and 10 months. In August 2009, she was murdered– stabbed multiple times – by her ex-boyfriend. On that terrible night, Joanna dialed 999 twice to call for police assistance; but for a number of reasons which the Independent Police Complaints Commission described as ‘serious individual and organisational failures’ help arrived too late. In her last 999 call, she is heard to scream just as the line goes dead. The nearest police station was only a few minutes away.
This is a London Black Cab – not any Black Cab – but the Cab used by John Worboys to sexually assault an unknown number of women during the first decade of this century. Remarkably, although well over 100 women filed police reports claiming to have been drugged and sexually abused by a London cabbie, their allegations were generally met with complacency, disbelief and a fair amount of sheer incompetence. That multiple allegations were producing a strong pattern of offence and offender profile did not even register on the police radar until picked up by a random computer check. According to Justice Green, giving judgment in the High Court last year, the police handling of the case was marred by: ‘a series of systemic failings which went to the heart of the failure of the police to apprehend Worboys and cut short his 5-6 spree of violent attacks’.
In other words, had the police acted more effectively, Worboys’ one-man campaign of terror against women might have ended much sooner.
This is a claw hammer. This is what Gareth Jeffrey used to batter his ex-partner, Stephen Smith, leaving him with 3 skull fractures, brain damage, and ongoing physical and psychological harm. In the weeks leading up this horrific assault – Stephen had been besieged by Jeffrey with telephone calls, texts and internet messages containing frighteningly explicit threats such as
‘U are dead’;
‘Look out for yourself –psycho is coming’;
‘I am looking to kill you and no compromises’.
Stephen’s efforts to get the police to take seriously his concerns that his life was in danger fell on deaf ears, notwithstanding a previous history of domestic abuse. The facts again reveal a police stance of procrastination and complacency: they simply did not consider the matter a priority and took virtually no steps to ensure Stephen’s safety.
Want to carry on reading? Read the full text of Civil liability: Addressing police failures in the context of rape, domestic and sexual abuse.
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