THE PEMBERTON CASE 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. HISTORY 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. JUDGE 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. POST MURDER AGENCIES 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 made. 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 time. 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 groups. 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. WHAT WENT WRONG WITH OUR HR CHAIR 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. INDEPENDENT EXPERTS 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. EXCLUSION OF FAMILY 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. EXCLUSION OF PREDICTABILITY AND PREVENTABILITY 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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