Inquest finds “systematic failure” by Northamptonshire Police to protect domestic abuse victims

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Northamptonshire Police has been criticised for a “systematic failure” to effectively protect victims of domestic abuse following a five-week inquest into the death of a pensioner who died after an arson attack at her home six years ago.

Mavis Clift, aged 75, formerly of Washington Street, Kingsthorpe, died on New Year’s Day in 2008 after her son-in-law, Paul Barber, poured petrol through the letterbox of her property and then set it alight.

The jury, sitting at County Hall in Northampton, returned its narrative verdict this morning.

The coroner’s verdict reads: “Mavis Clift was killed unlawfully following a fire started deliberately at her home.

There was a systematic failure throughout Northamptonshire Police to implement processes and procedures to effectively protect victims of domestic abuse.

“More specifically ineffective computer systems at all stages of the process, insufficient ongoing training of staff in all issues relating to domestic abuse, a concentration on incident resolution at the expense of victim support and a failure to link such incidents as part of an escalating pattern of harassment, all culminating in a failure to provide sufficient crime protection measures and achieve a timely, successful prosecution.”

The jury had previously heard evidence by Susan Robinson, Barber’s former wife who he became “obsessed” with during the period from April 2007 to the night of the fire.

Mrs Robinson she had parted with Barber in Spring 2007 after he told her he had another woman and asked her to move out of their shared property in Northampton.

The inquest heard Barber started harassing Mrs Robinson from the end of April and the first major incident was when he confronted her at her workplace in the canteen of the University of Northampton.

Mrs Robinson said she called the police as Barber’s sister, Paula Lloyd-Chamberlain, had told her that he had threatened to kill her.

In June 2007, Barber was arrested after he taped fireworks together and lit them outside her parents’ house in Washington Street, where Mrs Robinson was living.

The inquest heard that in August, Mrs Robinson’s tyres were slashed and in October her step-father Bill Clift was attacked by Barber as he walked to pick up his step-daughter from work.

Barber was finally charged with harassment in December 2007 but pleaded not guilty. The case was then adjourned until January 24, 2008.

Mrs Robinson suffered severe burns in the fire and was in a coma for three months and spent a further two months recuperating in a specialist burns unit.