Serial murder, serial rape, terrorism and domestic violence murders would be prevented if abusive men’s violent histories were proactively joined up and if the women who reported them were listened to and taken seriously.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is back in Parliament for Report Stage and Third Reading today, Monday 6 July. New Clause 33 tabled by MPs Yvette Cooper, Robert Halfon, Sarah Champion and Alex Davies-Jones places a statutory obligation on police, prison and probation to identify, assess and manage serial and serious domestic violence perpetrators and stalkers. This would change culture and ensure questions are asked of the perpetrator and not the victim. It would ensure a multi-agency, problem solving approach by the statutory agencies charged with the responsibility of public protection.
The Bill presents a real opportunity to better protect victims and intervene and prevent future abuse. But as it stands the Bill is woefully inadequate and without strengthening and listening to the survivors and experts who know what needs to change, we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past and hundreds more women and children will die, when they could have been saved.
Currently, domestic abuse costs society at least £66 billion a year. This estimate does not include stalking or the psychological impact of stalking and therefore the cost is likely much higher.
Three women are murdered by male partners or ex-partners every two weeks. It’s currently five women a week since lockdown began. This does not include stalking related murders of women where there is no relationship.
Domestic and stalking related murders are both preventable and predictable. They do not happen in a vacuum. These are murders in slow motion – the ‘drip-drip-drip’ happens over time on an escalating continuum. The “incident-led” approach to patterned crimes like domestic abuse and stalking is very costly must be stopped as women are paying with their lives and perpetrators are offending with impunity.
One murder costs £2m on average to investigate . One call-out to the police costs roughly £1500.
Responding to perpetrators time and time again is incredibly costly and many commit domestic abuse as well as other crime. Many predatory stalkers, sex offenders and serial killers abuse their partners.
Police research found that 1 in 12 of domestic rapists were raping outside the home. Once a violent and controlling man leaves a partner, it does not mean the violence ends. Evidence suggests they find new partners to abuse. Many had extensive histories of abusing multiple women.
Men who rape are good candidates for sexual violence for both significant women and anonymous women and domestic-related sexual assault is a good indicator of repeat vicitmisation, risk of harm and potential lethal violence. Yet out of just under 400 DV sexual and serious offenders only 2% (6) were convicted (the longest prison sentence was 14 months), despite the fact they were committing serious crime and are dangerous. Most got away with it – and continue to offend with impunity, which is alarming and unacceptable.
Some get away with it and escalate to rape and murder outside the home such as John Duffy, David Mulcahy, Peter Tobin, Levi Bellfield, John Taylor, Anthony Hardy, Mark Dixie and Ian Huntley.
In many terrorist attacks, the perpetrators have practiced at home before their public outbursts . In her book Home Grown, Joan Smith, Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board, highlights multiple cases including Khalid Masood (born Adrian Russell Elms) who drove across Westminster Bridge in 2017 targeting pedestrians and stabbed to death PC Keith Palmer. He had a string of criminal convictions for offences involving violence including controlling and physically assaulting multiple women.
Nazir Afzal OBE, a solicitor and former chief crown prosecutor for the north-west of England says: “The first victim of an extremist or terrorist is the woman in his own home.” He points out that 25,000 men are on the radar of police and the security services as potential terrorist threats. “You can’t monitor 25,000. But you shouldn’t have to. You already know which ones to target by flagging up violence against women as a high-risk factor.”
If we want to stop men murdering women at alarming rates, stop serial killers in their tracks, terrorist attacks and mass murder, we have to get much more serious about focusing on the perpetrators when victims of domestic abuse and stalking report to police, particularly when the perpetrator has abused multiple women.
For too long the approach has been to focus on repeat victims – to identify and track them. High risk cases are heard at the MARAC (a multi-agency risk assessment conference for victims). Research by Bristol University has found that a perpetrator who has been assessed as high risk and whose case is heard at MARAC generates costs of £63,000 to police, the justice system, health and other services.
It’s ironic that professionals load the victim up with actions and a safety plan and rarely do any multi-agency problem solving and risk management regarding the perpetrator. This is an alarming and significant gap in public protection across the UK. Serial domestic violence and stalking perpetrators have never been a priority or focus despite my raising it continuously since my Getting Away With It report (2004).
The Bichard Inquiry (2004) further highlighted a failure to manage the intelligence and to share information within and across police services and partner agencies about a serious and serial domestic and sexually violent perpetrator – Ian Huntley – who was an unconvicted dangerous person. This public protection gap has still not been fully addressed.
Furthermore, HMIC Domestic Abuse Is Everyone’s Business (2014) report again highlighted that police forces were not systematically flagging and targeting serial and serious perpetrators yet HMIC highlighted that this was core business for volume crime. Surprisingly, the 2015 progress report failed to even mention perpetrators.
Zoe Jackson’s 2016 probing research highlighted that very little has changed since the HMIC report, although there are pockets of good practice carved out by a few leaders in four areas Essex, Hampshire, North Yorkshire and Northumbria. These areas are taking a multi-agency approach, however, none of the approaches are co-ordinated or consistent with each other nor are they joined up.
Co-ordination, consistency and join up is key. Perpetrators travel. They learn the systems. They change their names. They try and fly under the radar. Police officers say themselves that when offenders move and are new to the area, they have no history about the perpetrator. This was highlighted in the Bichard Inquiry and has still not been remedied. It is detailed information, context and case management information and intelligence that is required, not merely a crime category such as ‘criminal damage’ ‘interfering with a motor vehicle’ ‘burglary’ on PND/PNC, without any context this on its own may seem insignificant and unconnected. Most often this is DV and/or stalking related crimed, however, it’s been pled down to something much lesser. This is exactly how the pattern is missed and the dots are not joined up – and margin of error that we want to mitigate against as it has such a grave consequence.
HMIC and HMICPSI Living In Fear report (2017) into stalking found 100% failure rate across six police forces and Crown Prosecution Service areas. Again, there is systemic failure when it comes to taking stalking seriously. Most often cases are dealt with as harassment and there is no join up regarding perpetrators.
The multi-agency response to perpetrators must be significantly improved, consistent and co-ordinated by the statutory authorities charged with public protection in order to save lives and save money.
The DA Bill presents a real opportunity to make abusive and violent men visible and accountable and better protect women and children. It’s time these dangerous domestic terrorists and stalkers were registered and monitored in the same way as sex offenders and that the victims right to safety and to live free of fear is realised and prioritised over an abuser’s right to freedom.
This is about all of our safety and the safety of our daughters. Whilst serial abusers and stalkers are untracked and unmanaged, we are all at risk.
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And victims and survivor voices must be listened to:
“My mum, Maria Stubbings, was murdered by convicted killer Marc Chivers. My mum was failed and the lessons have not been learned. Our current system is failing women and children – violent men must be made visible. Men with violent histories must be checked and joined up. Too often we focus on the victim. It’s time for change and genuine accountability by the system and perpetrators. It’s unacceptable that domestic abusers and stalkers are the only criminals that are not proactively identified and monitored as being serial perpetrators. Statutory agencies (police, prison and probation’ must be charged with the responsibility for proactively identifying, assessing and managing serial and serious domestic violence perpetrators and stalkers” Celia Peachey, daughter of Maria Stubbings who was murdered by Marc Chivers in 2008 after he came out of prison for murdering Sabine Rappold in Germany.
“It’s way past time serial abusers & stalkers were treated with the same gravitas as sex offenders and managed in a similar fashion. Abusers and stalkers seem to regard the law and any type of victim protection order with contempt. It’s time they were registered in the same way as sex offenders and they must be made accountable for their actions and monitored/managed to change their behaviours. Victims have rights too and it’s time this was realised. The threat of being placed on the register may prevent risk escalating to serious harm, so earlier identification and registering could give victims more protection – more than what my daughter Jane had –a serial abuser’s right to freedom was deemed more important than my daughter’s right to safety. This must change.” John Clough, MBE, father of A&E nurse Jane Clough who was stalked and murdered by Jonathan Vass
“How is it right that I was victim 18? I did everything right and I was attacked and almost killed by Jason Smith. My children and I have to live with the impact of his attack on me every single day, and with him coming out of prison, without me being notified, it just adds insult to injury. Why are his rights more important than mine and my children’s safety? And what about the next woman he targets? What about her safety? Does she not deserve to know?” Zoe Dronfield, survivor of a near lethal attack by Jason Smith who abused 18 women before her
“The proactive identification, assessment and management of serial and serious domestic violence offenders and stalkers could have saved me from being shot by Darren Williams, and my son, Jack, taking his own life. Darren had been convicted for violence and for assaulting his previous girlfriend after she took out an injunction. He was known for firearms and had previously been convicted after an arsenal of weapons were found under his bed. His violent history should have been joined up. Despite this, nothing was done to protect me and Jack and I have paid for that and I lost my son too. The culture urgently has to change, where the perpetrator is the focus and his risk and dangerous behaviour is joined up before it’s too late and even more women and children are harmed and lives are destroyed. This will save countless lives.” Rachel Williams, survivor, shot by Darren Williams
“In December of 2013 my daughter, Jayden Parkinson, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Ben Blakeley, in Didcot. Oxfordshire. During the eventual 5-week trial, three previous girlfriends testified that they too had been abused by Blakeley. In my opinion, had there been some sort of register that could have been accessed to check on his background, then perhaps my daughter may have still been with her family today. Since the murder of my daughter I have met other families whose daughters have been murdered by abusive male partners, and in many cases these abusive male partners have been known to the Police and have had records of abusive behaviour. Therefore, I strongly believe that a register of domestic abusers has become a necessity if society is to have any chance of dramatically reducing the incidents of domestic abuse which too often results in murder of their victims.” Samantha Shrewsbury, Jayden’s mother.
“I found Laura’s work on this particularly important and personal as my own little sister was raped and murdered by a man who had raped two women before her. The question of what difference will this make is a difference I wish were true. A difference that makes me angry it’s not already done. Because the problem is simply that institutions meant to protect us don’t listen to women’s voices and dismiss their experiences. Our bodies are piling up as a result.” Gemma Aitchison
“The importance of proactively identifying, assessing and managing serious and serial domestic abusers cannot be overstated. As a survivor of serious domestic abuse from a serial perpetrator, I know only too well what difference can be made to many victims, including me, if he had been managed years ago when his offending first came to light. Even now, he has served a lengthy prison sentence and his probation has ended, he is not being managed and will no doubt go on to commit further serious crimes. I always thought I was lucky to escape with my life, the next victim may not be so lucky.” Charlotte Kneer, survivor and CEO Reigate and Banstead Refuge
“I know how much damage serial perpetrators of domestic abuse can cause. They abuse and control a partner, and if that person is eventually helped to get away, the serial perpetrator will find another. This can go on until there are a trail of partners and families, traumatised and abused – often with children who are also victims. When I was the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria just under 5,000 perpetrators were responsible for half of the 30,000 domestic abuse calls the force received every year. Clearly these are people who can wreak havoc. It is time there were targeted and focused controls introduced along with powerful levers for them to change their behaviour.
I support this call for a national co-ordinated response to deal with perpetrators which will allow persistent and dangerous offenders to be tracked and monitored wherever they are in the country so that victims – and potential victims – are offered a much-increased level of protection. I will be writing to Alex Chalk MP and Victoria Atkins MP asking them to include a provision in the Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through Parliament which ensures that serial perpetrators are recognised and managed on a multi-agency basis.” The Victim’s Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC