The IPCC Report into the murder of Maria Stubbings
I feel immense sympathy for the family and friends of Maria Stubbings. The murder of Maria Stubbings was a dreadful and distressing crime.
I respect and commend the determination of Maria Stubbings’ family to challenge the first IPCC report into the murder. Their resolve has led to a second, and more thorough, IPCC investigation, which highlights a number of individual and organisational failures by Essex Police. It is now essential that we ensure the lessons of the failings identified by the IPCC have been learned by Essex Police and acted upon.
In Essex, over 80 domestic abuse incidents are reported to police every single day. Whilst there are individual examples of good and professional work, the police response to domestic abuse incidents both in Essex and across the country needs to be better than it was or currently is.
From my very first day as Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex I have been determined to ensure that the very best processes are in place to protect victims of domestic abuse, and that everyone is working tirelessly to attempt to prevent such tragedies from happening again. Domestic abuse is the only crime type that is a specific area of focus in my Police and Crime Plan for Essex, and since taking up office in November 2012 I have been striving to learn about the most effective processes for tackling domestic abuse.
I received a preliminary copy of the IPCC report into the murder of Maria Stubbings in February 2013, and I immediately encouraged Essex Police to invite HMIC to inspect the force’s practices and processes for dealing with domestic abuse. I have seen the draft HMIC report, from which I conclude that whilst there has been improvement, there are still significant areas of learning for the force. I will continue to discuss those areas for improvement with the force’s new Chief Constable, Stephen Kavanagh. HMIC will publish their final report shortly.
As I have strived to understand more about the complexity of domestic abuse, I have been disappointed to learn that there is no single body of work which is accepted as national best practice for police forces and partner agencies in the NHS, social services and the voluntary sector.
I welcome any efforts to further develop national best practice for tackling domestic abuse, and pledge my complete support to that urgent and essential work.
The IPCC has found that “Essex Police missed a large number of opportunities to proactively safeguard Maria Stubbings and her son, and failed to monitor the escalating risk or to detain Chivers before her murder at his hands in December 2008.
“Despite having accurately recognised the risks and dangers in July that year in responding effectively to an assault on Maria by Chivers, already a convicted murderer, Essex Police then failed to undertake rigorous risk assessment and put safety measures in place on his release from prison two months before the murder.
“The investigation has found a case to answer for misconduct against three police officers, but the failings of Essex Police at the time to protect Maria Stubbings and her son went far wider than the inaction of individual officers.”
These are significant findings. The IPCC has identified opportunities where Essex Police could have done more to safeguard Maria Stubbings. Tragically these opportunities were missed.
Essex Police has made a number of significant changes to its policy and processes for managing domestic abuse since the murder of Maria Stubbings. My job as Police and Crime Commissioner, on behalf of the people of Essex, is to ensure that the force has the most rigorous, professional and effective systems possible for investigating domestic abuse and protecting victims from harm. I will continue to work with Chief Constable Kavanagh, with national experts in this field and with partner organisations to achieve this.
My judgement is that Essex Police, like most police forces across the country, should pay more attention to the needs of victims and show more determination to tackle the perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is a crime that can lead to the ultimate horror: the murder of a loved one.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, I am determined to do my utmost to ensure that agencies who should be speaking with each other and sharing information are doing so.
I am determined that every police officer attending a domestic abuse incident should have the best training and the best support possible to make an accurate assessment of risk, and that specialist officers continue to review cases – particularly where significant risk factors are identified.
I will provide funding to help ensure that organisations that perform essential work in safeguarding and supporting victims of domestic abuse can continue and, where possible, expand their efforts. I’ve seen some of the work undertaken by the specialist domestic abuse organisations in our county: it is a humbling experience. I am committed to supporting such brilliant work.
We all have a personal responsibility too. If you feel your sister, your daughter, your father is the victim of domestic abuse, don’t keep quiet. I want everyone in the community to know what they can, and sometimes must, do to protect and support their loved ones.
If you have concerns, call Essex Police on 101 and ask to speak to a specialist domestic abuse officer. Alternately, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex