Police Kill Again
The IPCC concluded that GMP did not properly identify the risk to the victim. What this means is that on each visit by the police, a risk assessment was filled out, and when the Domestic Violence Unit (or Public Protection Unit, or Unit for the Protection of Vulnerable People, or People's Front of Protective People) received the risk assessments, they failed to put them in a "High Risk" blue folder and instead opted for the less effective grey or green (Medium, Low).
The importance of these coloured folders cannot be understated. Had Katie Summers been in a blue folder, various policies would have kicked in, including:
- DVU (or PPU, UPVP, PFPP) to deal with the offender each time he was arrested, instead of local shift or prisoner-handling officers.
- Overtime to be authorised to deal with any incident involving the couple.
- Mention in the Morning Meeting of the latest incident, with an edict by the Superintendent to "see that he's locked up for good".
- A remand in custody to be sought by police following interview.
- DVU officer to attend court in the morning to pressure the prosecutors into seeking a remand in prison.
All of this leads one to conclude that GMP is directly responsible for Katie Summers' death, as they attended on eleven occasions that year and should have identified the risk as BLUE.
Unfortunately, real life isn't as simple. Blaming GMP for wrongly classifying the risk fails to take into account the following "real" issues that face the police in dealing with domestic violence:
- Nearly all domestic violence situations involve dozens of previous calls.
- There is not enough staff in DVU to deal with every high risk offender.
- Unless there is a history of extreme violence, evidence of a serious offence (GBH or worse) and the offender has told police officers and the court that he intends to murder the victim, the court will be unlikely to remand him in custody. This is because most people don't go onto murder their partners following a criminal-damage-to-mobile-phone or text-message fiasco, and we can't lock them all up just in case.
- Police officers are not psychic. If someone says they aren't afraid or in danger, it is valid to take that into account when assessing their risk.
- Domestic Violence officers are not psychic either. Every single case they deal with could end in a murder. 99% don't.
- If a victim does not support prosecution against their partner, a prosecution in 99% of places can simply not take place. Most forces now try to prosecute regardless of whether there is in fact any evidence of any crime, with the result that a lot of non-murdering spouses find themselves going through the court system for the pettiest of domestic arguments. The courts will not and should not convict a lot of these people.
I dread the day that a domestic I attend evolves into a murder. But I'll go on dealing with each incident, and supervising my officers at them, in the way I deem to be moral, compassionate and right, and not because I'm worrying about the colour of a folder.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.