Today, June 11th 2014, the IPCC released a report following an investigation into an incident of domestic abuse involving a woman, Charlaine Lewis, being attacked with a hammer by her partner in 2011, which was launched following criticism of how South Wales’ police handled the case.
Charlaine was originally attacked and bruised by her partner, and reported it to the police who could not immediately locate him. Following this, Charlaine alerted the police about the man being at her address and she feared for her and her children’s safety, asking officers to come to her home. She was taken to the police station to make a further statement, and was then driven home by officers. Within moments of the police officer leaving, Charlaine’s partner forced entry to her flat and attacked her with a hammer, resulting in serious injuries.
The investigation found that the South Wales police force failed to access, and to process, relevant information appropriately, and failed to make Charlaine aware of the risks that the man presented to her, as he was a registered sex offender, with a record of violence. The report also found that the police only made limited attempts to apprehend the offender, and did not deal well with the escalating situation.
South Wales Police’s deputy chief constable, Matt Jukes, has said, “It is clear that we did not provide the victim in this case, and her children, with the care and protection that she needed at a critical time and we are sincerely sorry for that.
"Over recent years we have worked incredibly hard to improve our response to incidents of domestic abuse and whilst this has come too late to support the victim in this case, we have good evidence that it is providing a much improved response to victims of domestic abuse now, helping to keep them safe."
In March of this year, a report was released from the HMIC following a national investigation in to police responses to domestic abuse cases. The report conceded that some improvements were necessary, but in general the South Wales Police was found to respond well; with good systems in place to identify victims and provide support, as well as a thorough understanding among officers about their role in safeguarding victims and minimising risk.
It is clear that police failings put Charlaine at risk, and the severity of the crime should in no way be diminished, but it is important to acknowledge the progress made by South Wales Police in regards to domestic abuse. Calan DVS’s CEO, Rhian Bowen-Davies, says “The report from the IPCC is very much in contrast to the report released by the HMIC earlier this year. What Charlaine had to go through was terrible, and I am disappointed by the police reactions in this case, but it is encouraging to see that the South Wales Police have managed to vastly improve their responses to domestic abuse in the last 3 years. I’m concerned that reports such as this, will deter people from calling the police when they are in a dangerous situation, but the police can help and you absolutely must call them if you or your family are at risk of domestic violence.”