David Oakes - Murderer
The police have been blamed for the deaths of Christine Chambers and her daughter Shania. The pair were shot by Christine Chambers boyfriend David Oakes, who has been sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. I am very disappointed that senior officers in Essex Police have simply rolled over and apologised for the alleged failings of the police and promised that lessons will be learnt.
I have previously written about the difficulties of prosecuting domestic abuse cases and about the apparent unwillingness of domestic abuse victims to press charges. There are also links between this case and my last post concerning Tia Sharp. If you read the first article you cannot miss the similarities between that case and this latest one. No lessons were learnt. I am not sure that there are any to be learnt.
Victims - Christine Chambers with daughters Shania and Chelsea
If the police failed in some way then I agree that we must look at our strategy and processes and see if we can do anything better. When I see the IPCC stating that not enough resources are placed in domestic abuse then alarm bells begin to ring. When I see that this offender has been in front of a judge and given a non molestation order and breached it I am not surprised as most breaches of such orders usually result in a ticking off by the judge and further bail. Every incident of domestic abuse is investigated. Invariably the victim will not press charges. I think we understand that victims are frightened of their attackers and perhaps we need to look more carefully at why.
Huge resources are spent trying to persuade victims to press charges. Every case is risk assessed using a 16 page form. Alarms, refuges and all sorts of support are offered but in most cases victims fail to support prosecutions. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are not easily persuaded to go ahead with victimless prosecutions, quite rightly, when few of them are successful.
There are more and more demands made by various inspection authorities for the police to put more resources into domestic abuse, child abuse, anti terrorism, vulnerable adults, anti social behaviour. Etc. No thought seems to be given as to where these resources will come from. Police Officer numbers have been cut 16,000 in the last year. Most of these resources have come from the front line. Response officer numbers are pared to dangerous levels. Neighbourhood officers are becoming local crime investigators and prisoner handlers. Less than 50% of all crime reported is investigated at all. More resources placed in specialist departments will mean even fewer victims crimes being investigated.
What I think I would like to have heard the Essex ACC was this;
Appropriate resources are allocated to investigate domestic abuse. All incidents of domestic abuse are risk assessed and investigated. We do everything we can to persuade victims of domestic abuse to press charges but unfortunately they do not feel that the justice system offers them the protection they want. When offenders are charged they are invariably bailed by the courts and regularly breach bail conditions and re offend. Occasionally those on bail go on to commit very serious offences including murder. The courts are not investigated for their responsibility in these cases.
Sometimes we have to accept that the way some individuals chose to live their lives puts themselves and their children at greater risk. The police and other authorities should do all they can to protect vulnerable victims, including victims of domestic abuse. Sometimes it has to be accepted that because of peoples life choices and the constraints of our present justice system, not every victim can receive the protection that society would like them to have.