THE PEMBERTON CASE by dfhrf555fcg


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Good morning. Thank you to Sandra Horley of Refuge for

inviting me. My name is Frank Mullane. I am encouraged to be

given the opportunity to speak to some key professionals who

are leading change and believe that more must be done to

protect people from domestic violence. I am the brother of

Julia Pemberton and uncle of William Pemberton murdered by

Alan Pemberton 18 November 2003, two years ago this Friday.

Alan then turned the gun on himself.

We don‟t want retribution. We want to understand why three

members of our family died and for that understanding to be

used to create change. I want to tell you our story.

After years of many forms of domestic violence, including death

threats, my sister Julia decided enough was enough. She had

been so close to leaving many years before, but believed

that the family should stay together for the sake of the children.

Julia hid any difficulties from the children and played a role that

would best help her to do that. It was a brave decision and borne
out of a mother‟s love for her children. She planned to

leave when the children were 18. But, the abuse became too

much to bear. Julia told Alan that she wanted a divorce. She

warned me that this would result in an attempt on her life. Upon

hearing of Julia‟s wishes, Alan coldly and chillingly told Julia

that he would kill them her and himself if she pursued this
course of action.

The next step was to tell the Police of the death threats. In my

opinion, knowing what I know now, Julia placing her faith in

Thames Valley Police sealed her fate. Not because you

shouldn‟t risk antagonising an abuser as one might perceive the

Coroner later implied, but because this Police force did

not know how to deal with Domestic Violence. They did not

have a Domestic Violence policy – they have written and

confirmed this to me - they just didn‟t take this case

seriously – the system failed my family.

First Julia and I repeatedly and persistently told them of the

death threats – we called all weekend and begged for help. No

investigation was done. The Police eventually did help Julia to
get an injunction with Power of Arrest attached – but was that

really enough to keep them safe ? Then she told them that

Alan had glued all her door locks. No investigation was done.

Then, Julia told them that Alan had taken a copy of Julia‟s court

statement that had been used to get the injunction and written

death threats to her on it and passed this to her 16 year old son

William. Julia reported this to the police. The police lost this

document in the archives and no investigation was done. Then

she told them again of her fears of an attempt on her life. None

of these reports were linked, despite us telling them of the links.

Despite a catalogue of missed opportunities for the police

to protect my sister, they did not – system failure.

They conceded many failures including a lack of basic

investigative skills. I commend the senior officer who told us

this. I wish he had told Julia though, then we could have

considered other arrangements. Better to know they had no DV

policy and lacked basic investigative skills beforehand.
They did install a panic alarm but confusingly, told Julia to call

999 if there was violence used to secure entry.

At the Inquest, Thames Valley Police‟s barrister described the

glued locks incident in a way that led me to believe he was

describing an accounting entry – I recall words like “Would you

say - £150 worth of damage”. No. - a clear sign of someone

breaking an injunction where a Power of arrest was attached and

acting in a way that should have given any decent police force a

clear cause for concern and need for action. This comment

spoke volumes for Thames Valley Police‟s perception of

domestic violence. Despite being aware of Home Office

guidelines going back to 1990, they failed to implement a

Domestic violence policy. Here was their barrister offering a

possible reason; perhaps they did not understand the

complexities of domestic violence. Ours is not the only mis-

handled case in this police force.

The night Julia and Will were murdered, the police policy

included telling Julia that they were coming NOW and for her
to stay hidden, when in fact they had no intention of going there

at that time. About one minute before Julia was shot, she was

told that the police were trying to approach carefully – she must

have thought yes – they‟re outside – they are going to save Will

and me. The Police were not anywhere near the house at that

point, and wouldn‟t be for some time. It seems to me that the

policy ensured Julia was trapped with no hope of being rescued

when Alan came to murder her. The imparting of false

information, deliberately or otherwise, removed Julia‟s only

chance of survival – that of fleeing. The logic follows that

Thames Valley Police facilitated Julia‟s homicide. She was

denied that truth by the very organisation whose duty is to

preserve and protect life.

Armed police took nearly seven hours from when Julia called

999 to enter the house. At the Inquest, the Coroner didn‟t seem

concerned at the police reaction time, because he offered the

view that frankly it would have made no difference –

presumably he meant because they were probably all dead. Was
it not possible that people may have lain wounded and

unconscious in need of urgent attention?

Many officers are frustrated by this policy. I‟m told it has

changed. Has it ?

Clearly, not all officers are at fault. The Police have an

exceptionally difficult job, but it is their duty to preserve and

protect life. It is imperative that all grades of officers have to

come up to the mark; we can‟t sit comfortably until that

happens. This will only happen when training for

police becomes mandatory and police are given enough funding.

That training must start at the top. If senior officers are not

setting the example and signalling their willingness to respond

to situations appropriately, how can we expect junior officers to

respond effectively Perhaps, the Police can do something even

now though, by a re-prioritisation of current budgets. Seems to

me, domestic violence is not always high on the priority list.

There are many police forces who deal with domestic violence

very well. But, it‟s not consistent across the country.
Horrifyingly, it‟s down to postcode policing.

In 2003, Thames Valley Police was disproportionately

staffed by probationers meaning plenty of mistakes were made.

I don‟t know the current situation. Everybody in the Thames

Valley area has a right to know about this. Equally, I understand

some positive changes may be being made. If so, they should

know about those too.

But, domestic violence is not just a problem for the police to

resolve alone. In Julia‟s case, a judge reduced an injunction with

Power of Arrest attached to an undertaking with no Power of

Arrest. We thought he couldn‟t do this because of the threats of

Violence, by now so well documented. We were told Julia

accepted this reduction in protection. It cannot be right to let any

victim make such a decision. It is obvious that many victims

will find themselves agreeing not to have a hearing – to avoid

seeing the perpetrator even if that leaves them with less

protection. Did this downgrading of the protection send a subtle
message to the perpetrator that Society wasn‟t overly bothered

by his behaviour. There‟s a lot of good work going on to roll out

individual advocates who will support women who have to

appear in courts and our experience shows how much this is

needed I saw my sister become seriously debilitated by the

Criminal Justice System‟s response to her plight.

There are other individuals and agencies too which must play

their part:

Doctors, Psychiatrists, Health providers, Schools. Domestic
violence training should be mandatory for all of these.


And even after they died, organisations failed to support our

family. The first coroner who was going to preside over the

Inquest had unacceptably close associations with the

perpetrator. We asked the coroner to stand down. He declined.

We signalled notice to judicially review this position. He stood

down, citing a different reason for his exit.

The eventual coroner let the family down. Notwithstanding the

evidence he had before him in writing suggesting system failure,
he heard contradictory evidence from Police officers at the

Inquest. In our opinion, this should have led him to consider

that there was clear system failure suggesting the right course of

action to be adjournment of the Inquest and a re-convening with

a jury. Despite our representation to the coroner, the day before

the inquest started, he did not do this. 8 days after our Inquest,

The Highmoor report was published. This criticised the Thames

Valley Police Firearms policy, calling it “over-cautious” - the

same one deployed for my sister and nephew. Thames Valley

Police defended their stance at our Inquest vehemently, but later

conceded their response to our case was “over-cautious” too.

Their defense of that policy, at our Inquest, put us through

additional unnecessary trauma and meant the police were

purposefully covering up mistakes which they knew they had


In my opinion, The Coroner failed to understand domestic

violence. He made some quite extraordinary remarks which

put nobody knows how many thousands of women on notice.
He said words to the effect that he couldn‟t understand why

William deserved to be killed, perhaps suggesting that Julia

deserved to be murdered. We had to leave the Inquest as this

was the only way we were able to voice our disapproval at the


We know that Coroner roles are being reviewed. We would call

for Coroners to receive mandatory training to teach them how to

handle DV inquests. In Ontario, coroners always sit with DV

experts at DV inquests. We want them to do that here.

The best way for all agencies and individuals involved in

keeping victims of domestic violence safe, is through sharing

information safely through multi-agency and partnership


For some time after our hugely unsatisfactory Inquest, we were

too battle weary to seek remedy. Then we contacted Refuge and

began to learn so much. Our MP took on our case and called for

a Homicide Review in March of this year. Shortly afterwards, it

was granted. We had amazing support from our lawyer too.

We were again concerned when we heard that a Chair for the

homicide review had been selected by the Commissioning body

(the West Berkshire Safety Community Partnership), but not

before that Chair had met with Thames Valley Police (why I do

not know – I would have thought he had no business meeting

with one of the main agencies about to do some tough soul

searching, before he had been commissioned). I hope you‟ll see

that we struggled to perceive this Chair as independent. We then

met the Chair twice, the second time he offered no detail of the

meeting he had at the Home Office a few days before. Was a

whitewash starting? To us, independence and perceived

independence were equally critical.

We didn‟t want these reviews to blame and shame - but change

is preceded by some pretty honest soul searching. Perhaps, only

an independent Chair can achieve this. We have fought to make
this Review like that.


We were told that two independent DV

Experts had been selected to serve on the review. One was a

serving police officer another a government employee. In our

view, neither expert was independent. Other, “truly”

Independent experts were required. Notwithstanding the merits

of both of those persons, the Review could not have any

credibility without independent expertise, a view also shared by

Professor Peter Jaffe, author of the Ontario Death Reviews.


The Homicide Review formula being proposed to us seemed to

exclude the family - in a way that would severely limit the

positive outcomes that could come out of those Reviews. There

are many experts in the room here today. Well, in terms of what

went on between the three members of my family, we are

expert. Here is a body of information that needs to be tapped

into to help others. That‟s what we want to do now – help others
to avoid murder.

Professor Jacqui Campbell said: “Family input is critical. There

is much information that is critical to the case that official

records will not contain. …..It is not just the actions that were

or were not taken with the information at hand, but what

information was available that was NOT ascertained because

people in the system did not know to ask about important factors

that could have alerted the system that this was a particularly

dangerous case.” No risk assessment was done in our case.

Given this, surely any Review needs to be family evidence led.

I think we can learn from Canada and America. They‟ve

realised the importance of the central role of the family

in these reviews.


As you may know, there is an emerging science around

predictability and preventability. –It wasn‟t even mentioned in

the first Terms of Reference we saw from the Home Office –I
know that many police forces use a version of risk assessment.

Professor Neil Websdale assessed lethality assessment tools in

2000 including commenting on usefulness. He said that “These

instruments expose players like police officers to issues that

they may not otherwise consider or have been trained to think

through. Professor Websdale goes on to say „professionals may

exercise greater caution and care if the victim has taken a

legitimate danger assessment instrument assessing that victim at

the highest risk of murder‟.

During the period when we were trying to agree the Review‟s

Terms of Reference, we heard comments like “This is a learning

exercise. Future reviews will benefit from it”. That‟s true, but

for every 3 days of learning, another woman will be murdered.

We need more energy and pace in this.

Now‟s a great time to influence the formula of Homicide

Reviews – if everyone here wrote to their MP‟s and enquired -

are the Reviews going to be family evidence led ? Will the

Chair be independent ? Will Reviews be assisted by
INDEPENDENT experts ? Will there be a victim represented on

the Review Committee as in Ontario Death Reviews? Will

Reviews look at predictability and preventability ? If we all

ensured that our voices are heard, that these vital elements are

included in future homicide reviews we could accelerate

learning and achieve some real change.

.There   are many reasons why our Society isn‟t very civilised,

and I propose that one is that police officers don‟t have to be

trained in dealing with domestic violence. Time and again,

Government guidelines have stressed the importance of

training. We all want to stop

one of the most prevalent, sickening and targeted crimes in this

country. Let‟s stop this horrific catalogue of disasters through

step change, radical and properly funded action. Surely, women,

many children and some men are getting a very raw deal here.

Thank you for listening.

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