Three Northamptonshire Police officers and three members of police staff have been disciplined as a result of their individual failures in assessing the risk of an arsonist who caused the death of a pensioner.
Speaking after the verdict of the inquest into the death of Mavis Clift, assistant chief constable Russ Foster, said misconduct procedures had resulted in ‘management action’ being taken against six members of staff.
Mr Foster reiterated the apology given by the Chief Constable in 2009 when he said it had become “abundantly clear after the death of Mrs Clift that police computer systems, processes, training and awareness of our staff presented an unacceptable level of risk, particularly to repeat victims of domestic abuse.”
He said: “Firstly, I would like to offer my condolences to the Clift family, who have acted with great dignity throughout this inquest.
“We immediately recognised that there were deficiencies in the quality of our service and commissioned the Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Forum (NorDAF) to conduct an independent review into the circumstances leading up to the death of Mrs Clift to enable us to identify what we could have done better and reduce the chances of a similar situation arising again.
“It is clear from the evidence that’s been heard that we were engaged with Susan Robinson, her family and friends and had arrested and spoken with Paul Barber on numerous occasions. However, it is also clear that we didn’t have the computer systems in place to link previous incidents and the full details of what had happened were not always drawn out by officers and staff, as they should have been. Various officers were allocated incidents to investigate and some did better than others.
“The impact of this incident on the way Northamptonshire Police operates can not be underestimated – we made significant changes to what we do very quickly. We have made vast improvements to those systems, procedures, policies and areas of training that needed to be changed and constantly review what we do and how we do it.
“We have also made improvements to the training of our staff and officers within the Force Control Room; we have also made significant changes to how we assess risk and investigate domestic abuse.
“We now have a specialist domestic abuse unit which consists of highly trained officers and staff who focus entirely on cases of domestic abuse. Not only have we increased the amount of training and resources available to investigate incidents, we have also worked with colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service and Court Service to introduce a specialist domestic abuse court.
“This sits every week at Northampton Magistrates’ Court with the aim of fast-tracking domestic abuse cases through the court system.
“We have also greatly improved our training about domestic abuse to all officers and frontline staff, with regular training updates on policy and procedure changes.
“Many people think of domestic abuse as physical violence – however, this case has shown that the harassment of victims can be devastating.
“I want anyone who is suffering at the hands of an abuser, whether that be physical, emotional or of a harassing nature, to understand that we can help them and that we will do all within our power to help.”