Briefing For MPs for the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill: Stalking, Serial Stalkers and Domestic Abusers
Laura Richards, Founder Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service
The Domestic Abuse Bill is welcomed and we encourage MPs to support the Domestic Abuse Bill and speak in tomorrow’s second reading debate. However, it is both concerning and alarming that it omits stalking and, in particular, stalkers and serial domestic abusers, especially in light of the fact that our evidence shows that they repeat offend and go on to commit murder.
- There needs to be a focus on stalking, serial domestic abusers and stalkers – they are the problem;
- It is imperative that serial stalkers and domestic abusers are prioritised and proactively identified, assessed and managed by police and probation;
- Women are being murdered and the domestic homicide rate is increasing1, yet this is still not happening, despite Ministerial agreement that it would and despite the fact that just under 172, 000 people have signed our petition for this to happen2;
- Placing Clare’s Law on a statutory footing places the onus, yet again on the victim, they have to come forward and ask and deal with the fall out. Further there is often a time delay when sharing information that places them at risk, the scheme does not include stalkers (the most dangerous of abusers due to fixation and obsession) and there is NO duty on police services to identify, track and manage serial domestic abusers or stalkers (many of whom remain unconvicted due to low conviction rates). Therefore the system is flawed;
- A cultural shift is urgently needed, one where we prioritise and focus on the perpetrator, ask questions about their offending behaviour, collect and share intelligence about their offending behaviour, assess and manage their behaviour, seek to hold them to account and close their behaviour down.
- Serial stalkers and domestic abusers should be included on the Violent and Sexual Offender’s Register and managed via the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.
The domestic homicide rate is increasing at an alarming rate. Male violence is at pandemic proportions, which is only set to continue. The number of women killed as a result of domestic violence in the UK is at its highest level in five years. Last year, 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, according to data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK – an increase of 32 deaths on 20173
We know through our casework that women and girls continue to be harmed and murdered and abusers are allowed to offend with impunity.
Many survivors including Zoe Dronfield who was victim number 17 and Rachel Williams who was shot and almost killed in her hair dressing salon are supporting our calls for serial offenders to be included on VISOR and managed by MAPPA, along with family members whose loved ones have been murdered including:
- John and Penny Clough whose daughter Jane was stalked and murdered in Lancashire;
- Drs Clive and Sue Ruggles, the parents of Alice Ruggles;
- Elizabeth Griffiths, mother of Laura Stuart, was murdered in Denbigh;
- Andrea Darbyshire, whose daughter Rosie Darbyshire was murdered in Lancashire.
The Domestic Abuse Home Affairs Select Committee recommended serial abusers should be placed on ViSOR and MAPPA and the London Assembly supports our calls for the establishment of a Domestic Abusers Register as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
- In a 2019 report, Domestic Abusers Register, the London Assembly found that a Register would provide the necessary impetus for a shift in focus towards preventing domestic abuse, looking at patterns of behaviour and preventing incidents before they occur.
- Rather than creating additional, unnecessary bureaucracy, this Register should be managed through existing Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, creating a national standard of risk management.
- The London Assembly’s call for a Register recognises the fact that survivors of domestic abuse are often repeat victims. Nationally, one in three domestic violence victims have been attacked more than once across England and Wales.
Sadly, there are hundreds of case studies that highlight why it is so important that this happens as a matter of priority. Along with Zoe Dronfleld and Rachel William’s case, Jane Clough, Alice Ruggles, Shana Grice and Molly McClaren here are seven more:
Stefan Carr4 abused at least four women and has been branded a danger to women. He abused the mother of his children in 2011 and due to escalating abuse she left him. He started a new relationship with Bethany Marchant who he coercively controlled and stalked on separation. He turned up at 0455 demanding to see her laptop and mobile phone, punched her in the face, tried to strangle her with and suffocate her with a cushion. She called 999 and escaped. He attacked her another time, attempting to hang her by putting a noose around her neck.
He had previously abused a 17 year old girl in 2011 he had been in a relationship with. He broke down the door at her friend’s home before carrying out the attack. He grabbed her by the hair, pulled her outside and kneed her to the face. Carr then attacked the victim’s friend’s father by punching him several times to the head. Damage worth £1,996 was caused in the incident.
Carr then attacked another woman in 2012 while they were on a night out together in Castleford. He grabbed her by the throat, headbutted her to the mouth and punched her in the face.
The woman threw her engagement ring and phone at Carr during the incident. The next day he turned up at her home demanding the ring.
The woman tried to hide in the bathroom but he ripped the door off its hinges, headbutted her in the mouth, and repeatedly kicked and punched her.
Five year old Alex Malcolm was beaten to death by Marvyn Iheanacho, the former partner of his mother, Liliya Breha, after the boy lost one of his trainers in a park in November 2016. Although the probation service knew about Iheanacho’s violent history and of Breha’s existence, they failed to warn her about him5.
Breha was horrified at the conclusion of Iheanacho’s murder trial in July 2017 to hear for the first time that he had a string of previous convictions dating back to 1994 for violent offences against women and children.
According to the terms of Iheanacho’s licence, he was not supposed to have unsupervised access to children under 16, and probation officers were supposed to monitor any new relationships with women. He was “a manipulative high-risk offender with a history of domestic violence who intimidated probation officers” who was allowed to offend with impunity.
Cherylee Shennan was stabbed to death outside her home by convicted killer Paul O’Hara in March 2014 in front of police officers who had been called to investigate reports of domestic abuse6.
O’Hara was previously given a life sentence in 1998 for killing ex-partner Janine Waterworth but was released on licence in 2012.
He had other previous serious convictions for violence against women. He had been assessed in prison as displaying traits of psychopathy. At the time of his release he was assessed as posing a serious risk to women.
Despite his history, O’Hara’s risk was not required to be managed by multi-agency meetings under the Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
The family first suspected that O’Hara was abusing Cherylee when they saw her with serious facial injuries at a family gathering on Bonfire night. At the time, Cherylee gave an alternative explanation for the injuries. However on 1 March 2014, she told her sister Ellen that it was O’Hara who had caused the injuries; that he had also fractured her jaw; and that he had held her hostage at knife point. She also told her sister his offending history. The family called the police.
Police officers attended what they believed to be an ongoing domestic violence incident, without any knowledge of O’Hara’s history. They discovered his history on doing a PNC check at Cherylee’s home. But they viewed the incident as ‘historic’ and took no positive steps to apprehend O’Hara. Nor did they take a full account either from Cherylee, who was frightened and fearful of the consequences of police involvement, or from the family members present who could confirm the injuries they had seen
Coroner James Newman published a ‘prevention of death’ report, raising alarms over the lack of inter-agency communication between probation services and police7.
In his findings, he questioned the role of MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) for the county.
He said: “Following (O’Hara’s) release there were no local MAPPA meetings, no inter-agency meetings and no significant inter-agency communications regarding the perpetrator, no detailing of his licence conditions, and no information regarding either his nature or the trigger factors of his offending.
“My concern is despite this, and the findings of the report, there is still no mandatory process for the sharing of information between agencies where the offender, despite and known extensive history of domestic abuse and identified trigger factors, is then managed at MAPPA Level 1.”
Before her killing, the inquest heard how Cherylee had suffered a broken nose, repeated facial bruising and a broken jaw at O’Hara’s hands. She was held hostage at knife-point at least twice.
Case Study 4
Rosie Darbyshire was murdered by her boyfriend Ben Topping in Preston. Rosie put in the application under Clare’s Law after others raised concerns about Topping’s violent past – but she did not receive any information on him before he killed her 11 days later.
Topping brutally attacked Rosie with a crowbar on the street. He inflicted more than 50 injuries on her, leaving her unrecognisable.
He had a history of violence and a previous girlfriend had written on
Facebook “You’ll be next.”
Rosie’s family are calling for a database or register for people currently charged with or convicted of violent offences8.
Case Study 5
David Gikawa9 stabbed his ex-partner Linah Keza to death in her east London home. She reported him to the Metropolitan Police Service numerous times and she went to a solicitor to seek a non-molestation order. She highlighted in detail how, over four years, she was harassed, stalked, coercively controlled, intimidated and abused by a man who punched her, attempted to strangle her, suffocated her with a pillow, put a knife in her mouth, threatened to kill any man who came near her and was known to carry a gun in her statement.
“I believe that I will be at risk of significant harm if the respondent is not ordered to stop immediately … I am petrified … I do not want to live a life of violence any more,” she said.
Keza finally ended the relationship in June 2013. Gikawa, a heavy drinker, had eight convictions and had been in prison. In 2006 he accepted a caution for assaulting a partner. A probation report in July 2013 warned that Gikawa was stalking Keza.
The police, when called out, failed to check the intelligence.
On July 28 she called the police three times as he was stalking her and he was outside her house. He slashed her friend’s car tyres and threatened to harm him in Ugandan. Although they identified a number of high risks in the DASH Risk Model, they categorised it as medium risk and failed to fully investigate.
On 31 July, Gikawa entered Keza’s home and stabbed her three times in front of their two-year-old daughter.
Case Study 6
Kerri McAuley10 was brutally murdered by Joe Storey in Norwich in January 2017. Kerri suffered 19 injuries to her head and face following an attack by Storey, who smeared her blood on his face and took a selfie before leaving her to die.
Storey had violently attacked five previous girlfriends dating back to 2008, and at the time of the murder had three restraining orders to protect former partners.
The terrified mother-of-two endured four hours of being attacked and locked away by Storey. She escaped bloodied and beaten wearing just her underwear through the window of her home.
She called 999 and for 22 minutes pleaded for help, telling the call handler about previous assaults for the first time and saying she was scared of further attacks. She feared he would kill her.
In July 2016 Storey received a restraining order for the prolonged and vicious attack – just like ones he breached repeatedly against his previous partners.
Six months later, Kerri was brutally murdered by Storey.
The domestic homicide review found that had Storey been charged and convicted when he attacked Ms McAuley in July 2016 “he MAY have received another prison sentence, this MAY have prevented the murder of Ms McAuley.”
In addition had he then been under the scrutiny of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MAPPA) – a monthly meeting where professionals share information on high risk cases – it “MAY have meant more cross-agency resources were alive to his potential and this MAY have had a deterrent effect”.
Case Study 7
Anne-Marie Nield11 suffered multiple fatal injuries in an assault at the hands of her jealous and controlling ex partner, Richard Howarth at her home in Manchester.
Howarth had been on police bail at the time of her murder, pending a trial for an alleged assault against Ann Marie some months earlier. Anne-Marie had reported him numerous times to police. He was controlling, had smashed her phone during an argument, had damaged her front door, assaulted her numerous times and strangled her.
Howarth was already known to Greater Manchester Police for a “history of violence” against other women and Howarth was categorised as a ‘serious’ and ‘serial perpetrator,’ having committed offences of violence towards previous partners. However, each time Anne-Marie reported it was treated as a single ‘incident’ and she was not told under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme about his history of violence to other women.
Across the UK we are failing women and girls who are primarily the victims and who are being terrified, terrorised and murdered by serial stalkers and domestic abusers. If we want to change this we need to take women and girls seriously when they report and place a duty on police and probation to prioritise and proactively identify, assess and managed serial abusers. Without this measure, Clare’s Law will not work and abusers will continue to be allowed to act with impunity.
This is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.
We have to change the culture and focus on the male perpetrators of violence and hold them to account.
Laura Richards BSc, MSc, MBPsS
Founder Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service