Whatever happened to the lawsuit threatened against Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Proseuction Service, following the tragic murder of Sabina Akhtar in 2008?
For those who don't remember, Sabina was stabbed to death days after the CPS decided to drop a case against her husband - it is unclear what offence was being considered but it followed a catalogue of violence and threats. Despite the CPS apology, the charity Refuge has gone awfully quiet after their public denunciation of the police and prosecution service.
Believe it or not, it is highly unusual for someone to suddenly awake one day and decide to murder their partner. Most humans possess the ability to weather divorce, financial hardship, infidelity and loss of custody without becoming hammer-wielding maniacs
. When a murder occurs, therefore, there are really only two explanations:
- The perpetrator was afflicted with a mental malady so sudden and overwhelming that s/he genuinely and truly was not in control of his/her actions. In rare cases, this could be a one off, more normally the person is incurably ill and ends up here afterwards.
- The killer is a violent bastard who has always functioned with the belief that his/her partner/family either remains with him and under his control, or dies. The murder is either the result of a routine beating gone wrong, or a reaction to the victim leaving.
In the case of no.2 above, which describes the majority of domestic murders, people are still surprised/shocked to hear that the couple Were Known To The Police already. The concept that a violent and cruel thug might have come to police attention before the day he accidentally/deliberately took his violence to the next level appears hard to grasp.
As a police officer regularly attending reports of domestic violence, and now even more regularly signing off reports by officers who have attended them, confirming that I agree with their actions, the burden is heavy. I suppose I must have good instincts: none of the hundreds of domestic incidents I have written off as "low" risk have resulted in a murder. Or would it be more accurate to say that of the hundreds of thousands of domestic incidents occurring nationwide, the proportion resulting in murder is microscopic? And that none of the domestic incidents I have written off have resulted in a murder - Yet.
I hope that Refuge has decided against its lawsuit for Sabina Akhtar. Those who batter their other halves will not be quaking in their boots at the thought of a Health and Safety tribunal against their local force. Domestic violence will not be stopped by extending the risk assessment by another two pages, nor by disciplining officers who were unaware that in two years' time the woman screaming at them to get out of her house is going to end up dead.
Instead, victims' memories would be better served by Refuge's continuing campaign to offer safe haven to those who flee abuse, working with the police to develop better and more efficient ways of prosecuting when victims do cooperate, and educating the wider public to take some responsibility for what is going on around them, in their streets, in their homes.
Perhaps Refuge could use the money set aside to sue GMP, to visit the neighbours of Christine Chambers in Essex and ask them: if they knew, as was shouted at the police outside her door, that Christine and her toddler were going to meet such a gruesome end, what exactly did THEY do to try and prevent it?
I don't like the term Big Society. But if were're going to use it, let's do so properly.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.