Greater Manchester Police failed DV victims, say IPCC

// 11 March 2010

(Trigger warning: descriptions of domestic violence.)

This will come as no surprise at all to many readers: it seems more victims of domestic violence have been officially let down by the police. According to BBC News, Greater Manchester Police have been heavily criticised in a new report by the IPCC, which highlights the force’s failings in two cases of women murdered by their ex-partners. These findings come on the same day that authorities in Sheffield apologised to two sisters for failing to protect them from their abusive father, who subjected them to repeated rapes and beatings over a 25-year-period.

In Greater Manchester, Clare Wood was strangled by her ex-partner George Appleton, a man who had been in prison three times for assaults on previous partners. Before she was killed, she had contacted police on several occasions to report that he had caused criminal damage, harassed, threatened and sexually assaulted her. The Manchester Evening News has a detailed breakdown of the force’s failings in Wood’s case, some points of which are:

  • “Police took more than 24 hours to respond after Clare frantically dialled 999 when Appleton hammered on her front door.
  • A police officer took four months to submit a file to prosecutors after Clare went to Pendleton police station and said that Appleton had threatened to smash her windows, burn her house down and have her stabbed.
  • Appleton was bailed after the allegation of sexually (sic) assault despite his history of domestic violence.
  • Police failed to correctly fill in 13-point risk assessment sheets for domestic violence victims.
  • Prosecutors advised the officer to give Appleton a harassment order but he did not because Appleton was on bail for the sex assault. Three days later he killed Clare.”
  • Another woman in Greater Manchester, Katie Boardman, was also fatally let down by GMP. She was stabbed by her ex-partner Brian Taylor; prior to this, the police had been called out to the couple eleven times – five calls were made in the week before she died.

    IPCC commissioner Naseem Malik told the BBC that certain officers demonstrated “a shocking lack of understanding about the nature of domestic violence”. That’s certainly what it looks like, considering findings like these (from the Manchester Evening News):

    “The police officer who recorded Clare’s complaints – known as officer A – underestimated the threat posed by Appleton. It says the officer did not consider there was a genuine threat to life and perceived Appleton as a ‘quiet mild man’ and thought his threats were ‘throwaway comments’.”

    How many deaths are caused by attitudes like this? ‘He seems like a decent bloke.’ ‘He probably didn’t mean what he said.’ ‘He wouldn’t do such a thing.’ Why does the belief stubbornly persist that domestic violence just doesn’t happen, even in supposedly highly trained professionals like police officers, who you’d think would be used to the fact that violent people exist? Why do some officers evidently believe you can tell a potential murderer just by looking at them? My mother, working for Women’s Aid in the 1980s, encountered attitudes like these from the police, and I encountered them myself when spending a day at a women’s refuge in London several years ago. Here they are again. What will it take to make them go away?

    GMP insist they are already making improvements to their service following Clare Wood’s case. I hope that’s true. However, I remain cynical about the effect these will have. In my opinion, as long as ignorant and harmful attitudes about domestic violence exist in society at large, they’ll exist in the police force. The idea that one can send a police officer on a training course in how to fill out a particular risk assessment form and then expect all their preconceived notions about domestic violence to vaporise (most men accused of domestic violence are probably ‘good blokes’, women lie and exaggerate because they like ‘drama’, perhaps she nagged him, etc) is utterly naive. These ideas are stubborn, and need to be aggressively and systematically challenged in all areas of life.

    I already know the answer to the question I asked above: the removal of misogyny from society.

    Comments From You

    Jeff // Posted 11 March 2010 at 10:07 pm

    On the topic of Domestic Violence, I have been pleasently surprised recently by an advert being run in which a young male abuses his girlfriend for refusing to have sex with him, at the conclusion of the ad, the guy is shown banging on a “window” depicting the screen and yelling at himself to stop.

    Although I thought it was nice that, for once, there’s a campaign that doesn’t focus on victim blaming, but today I saw an alternative ending in which the girl was begging the bloke to stop, and the repentent fella was nowhere to be seen. I find it sad that even when the government get it right, they have to spoil it by getting it wrong too.

    emily // Posted 12 March 2010 at 12:20 am

    Its true, especially in manchester. When I was 15 my mums then boyfriend was abusive and out of control, I called the police. He answered the door and told him I was overreacting and they just went away. I don’t think there was a scarier period of time in my life than those few months. It took us 4 moves to be rid of him, the police were no help in the slightest, if anything they reinforced his view that his power over us was justified.

    I consider myself lucky, a schoolfriend and her family never had the luck we did, they were killed a few years ago by a man who had repeatedly been reported by the women he attacked, but never served any time, or more importantly was never rehabilitated in any way. It was far too late for this family and for many other families who could have been spared tragedy (not a word I use lightly or in a daily mail fashion).

    aimee // Posted 12 March 2010 at 8:51 am

    Why aren’t these people accountable for this!? Apologising isn’t enough. There needs to be repurcussions so that police officers understand that they can’t get away with ignoring victims! They have failed to do their jobs properly! If this was a doctor, or a teacher they’d be sacked or struck off for such heinous misconduct!

    Jennifer Drew // Posted 12 March 2010 at 11:21 am

    Yet more platitudes and ‘apologies’ from various statutory bodies – but nothing changes. Apologies are easy to make as are claims ‘Greater Manchester Police has improved.’

    Misogyny is a huge problem and still it is seen as ‘isolated incidents’ not central with regards to the issue of male violence against women and children. There are no ‘Fritzl’s’ committing multiple rape against their daughters – but there are certainly a very large number of men who with our misogynstic society’s approval, continue to commit violence against women and children within the so-called traditional family and safety of the ‘home!’

    As the late Marilyn French said ‘there is a continuing war against women and it is men who are the ones committing acts of violence against women.’

    The pendulum has swung once again in men’s favour wherein it is widely believed that women are the ones committing violence, seeking revenge against innocent men and it is women who are innate liars and manipulators – never the men who choose to enact their pseudo right of male domination and control over women and children.

    But then society is very good at burying its head in the sand and hoping a few apologies will suffice – far better to claim such cases are ‘isolated ones’ not common and occur because our male-dominated society adheres to the myth women are men’s adjuncts – not human beings.

    The struggle for women’s rights has not been won – in fact all too often it is dimissed as irrelevant – because we are all supposedly individuals – free from any socio-economic constraint. I wish!

    Feminist Avatar // Posted 12 March 2010 at 12:11 pm

    A friend of mine started being stalked by a complete stranger, which finally came to a head when he stole her shoe when she was sitting on the train- and she had reported him to the police several times. They told her he had stalked several woman, but not to worry as they had interviewed him and ‘he was perfectly harmless’; he just had a thing about feet.

    When she complained about this attitude- pointing out that this was the sort of thing police said before women were found raped and murdered-, she was told to stop making a fuss, the police were just trying to help her.

    Gwen // Posted 12 March 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Interesting question about accountability. I have letters of apology from CAFCASS and from Social Services about their handling of my children’s case – which included sexual abuse and domestic violence. Just letters of apology. And the Social Services one isn’t even a proper apology, they say they are sorry that I was not happy with my treatment. They don’t say they were sorry for their mishandling. Yet the independent investigating officer said the case highlighted serious shortcomings and even said, “I find it hard to believe in this day and age with the public outrage over the failure of various Social Services departments to protect and act in the best interests of children that supposedly experienced staff are prepared to ignore both national and local policies and invent their own”. The report highlighted “significant failings”. But what happens? Half an apology, the offer of a derisory amount of compensation and no re-examination of the case so that the children are still at risk. The police, social services and the courts ignore and minimise warnings time and time again. The only thing that makes any of these agencies actually act is the threat of bad publicity. I ask for one social worker to be disciplined because she just steadfastly refused to participate in the Independent Person’s enquiry. No disciplinary action was taken. I wish I could name her now on this site. I want to see her account for what she did. I don’t think Manchester is any worse unfortunately than any other part of the British Isles about this. Pick up any paper and read the stories about how previous girlfriends’ warnings were ignored, how men persuade the police that it was just a row and how the woman was being hysterical. You’re probably better off calling for an ambulance than for the police if threatened with violence. If threatened with rape, shout “Fire” – more people respond to it.

    I’ve got a network of domestic violence survivors and everyone single one of them says the same: the failures are systemic and typical, not one offs. Deaths are the tip of the ugly ice berg of police and social service ignorance.

    Jason Solic // Posted 30 March 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I find GM Police absolutely useless! I heard a police woman shout abuse at someone to shut their &^*% window while someone opposite was on the building opposite was up on the roof threatening to jump, he seems to appear every month and threaten to do the same thing. I was also in the building opposite but couldn’t see what happened next apart from three other PCs shoout and then came into my building and I could hear them almost bang down someones door. I could hear them harrassing some poor person. No law was broken but they had to take it upon themselves to vent on someone. What happened to their policy of “treating people with respect and dignity”….am thinking I’ll be a witness if they want to make a complaint against them Manchester police force….

    holiaysun // Posted 7 April 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Hi read all your comments with interest. I was a serving officer for 12 years and in a same sex relationship. I endured domestic abuse and violence for over 4 years and even when i left the relationship it continued with the help of the police. I confided in supervisors about the abuse but was ignored and told not to mention it ! When i left the harassment continued and the police did believe she had it in her and are now trying to defend why they took no action. I know now she will one day go that 1 step to far and perhaps the police in my old Force will see the offender she is. I am now out of the force and the relationship and have witnessed myself while in the job and personally the poor and shoddy standard of work which has resulted in people losing there lives. I know there are officers who do the job with devotion and there are others who have the attitude “another domestic”.

    Tiny // Posted 13 April 2010 at 3:59 pm

    This is happening due to front line service cuts,unfortunately the police are like politicians they say one thing but do another.

    lyn // Posted 9 September 2010 at 8:20 am

    My daughter was the victim of domestic violence, she was so let down by the police, in april this year she took her life because she just could not cope,Domestic violence kills, people need to sit up and listen and take it serious we need to lobby parliment and our mps not just to bring awareness but to make positive changes. If my daughter would have recieved the help and support she so needed my young grandchildren would still have a mummy

    bill // Posted 16 September 2010 at 8:57 am

    I am an officer in said police force, just last week I attended a violent dometic in an area with extremely high occurrances of DV. upon my arrival the pregnant female with a swollen eye didnt want to make any complaint initially, however I managed to talk her round, got a statement/pictures from her, locked the offender up and spent an entire shift doing paper work and speaking to cps. The end result of this was that he was recalled back to prison for a further 2 months. Just thought I would post this as it is an example of a good result. I suppose.

    Sheila // Posted 16 September 2010 at 10:35 pm

    A friend once came to me in a state of great distress one morning and showed me bruises on her wrists her husband had caused earlier. She was very upset but determined to involve the police this time. I called them. As soon as the police asked for her address (she was safely at my house), she became overwhelmed with panic and begged me not to tell them. In the end, I persuaded her that I should. I took her to the doctors and he documented her bruising. The husband was arrested. She gave a four hour statement of horrific cruelty to the police, including being beaten, burnt, incarcerated by her husband. The husband was bailed. He stayed away from the house but went straight round to see the local priest, who then started performing a role of “it’s Christian to forgive” mediation. Incidentally, though not CHurch of England in this case, if the priest had checked out the C0fE clergy website she (yes, she) would have found some pretty good guidance about safeguarding victims and not preaching forgiveness in instances of domestic violence. The police gave the file to the CPS and the case came to trial. I turned up as requested as a witness, But the victim did not. She is now back with her husband. He is beating her again. What could have been done differently? Well, she was in need of a huge amount of support and got very little other than from this priest who got it badly wrong and interfered with the course of justice. If the court hearing could have been sooner, maybe her resolve wouldn’t have weakened so much. But if he’d been convicted, would she have been better off than she is now? She couldn’t face the grind of poverty and social loneliness. This is so complex. Yes, in some instances the police can be to blame. In my own case, I was told not to press charges becuase “it would only enflame my ex more”. But the problem is, I still feel angry with my friend. I feel she let us all down but not prosecuting. If she wasn’t going to take the violence seriously and press charges, why should any one else take it seriously? On the other hand, some women risk and lose their lives by reporting violence.

    Have Your say

    Comments are closed on this post

    Further Reading

    Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

    Write for us!

    Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

    • The F-Word on Twitter
    • The F-Word on Facebook
    • Our XML Feeds