Police ‘watchdog’ the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has set out a number of recommendations for North Wales Police (NWP) to improve the force’s response to domestic abuse.
The recommendations published today follow an IPCC investigation into police contact with Emma Baum prior to her murder in Gwynedd.
Emma Baum, 22, was found dead in the garden of her home in Penygroes in July 2016 after suffering catastrophic injuries.
Her ex-partner David Davies was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years for her murder in November 2016.
The IPCC investigation looked at NWP contact with Miss Baum between April and July 2016 including information available to officers and staff, how it was recorded, and whether officers complied with local policies and national guidance.
The investigation found that Miss Baum first contacted NWP on Sunday 24 April 2016 to report that she had been assaulted by David Davies.
She alleged that this was the third incident of domestic abuse she had suffered at the hands of Mr Davies but the first she had reported to police.
The information collated by the investigation suggested that the earlier unreported incidents were not then investigated or considered as part of risk assessment processes.
On 30 May 2016, Miss Baum reported that Davies had stolen her dog but the incident log was closed as this was considered to be a civil matter.
Miss Baum’s mother alleged that on Sunday 17 July 2016 that she informed two officers that she was concerned for her daughter’s safety because of threats made by Davies. The two officers however said they could not recall the conversation.
The investigation also looked at a call made by a member of the public on Monday 18 July 2016 reporting the sound of a woman screaming.
Two officers attended and drove around but could see nothing of concern and left the area.
Miss Baum was found dead later that morning in her back garden, which was not visible from the road. In the investigator’s opinion, the officers did carefully consider the information and their action was proportionate.
The IPCC has recommended that North Wales Police should:
* Reinforce training to recognise all potential signs of domestic abuse, including thefts and burglary.
* Streamline policy and guidance documents regarding domestic abuse, ensuring that they are in line with the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice
* Revise the form used to refer victims of domestic abuse to the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit to include a question about previous domestic abuse.
* Consider whether investigating officers could be actively involved in providing information to support decisions for Domestic Violence Protection Notices.
* Work with partner agencies to adopt a shared consistent approach to the risk assessment process.
* Make it a procedural requirement for investigating officers to review logs and listen to the audio of telephone calls received in domestic abuse cases to identify any issues of concern.
The IPCC said its findings were shared with the force in July 2017 and “the organisational learning recommendations were accepted.”
In addition to the recommendations, the force also agreed that three officers had cases to answer for misconduct, which were not proven at subsequent disciplinary meetings held by NWP in November 2017.
One of these officers was subsequently given informal management action to improve performance, as were a further two police constables, a police sergeant and a call handler.
IPCC Operations Manager Melanie Palmer said:
“My thoughts are again with the family and friends of Miss Baum following her tragic death.
Our investigation found a number of areas where North Wales Police could improve their service for vulnerable victims of domestic abuse. I welcome the force’s acceptance of the learning recommendations and hope this achieves improvements in policy and practice in this difficult area of policing.”
Publication of the IPCC findings were withheld, pending the conclusion of the misconduct proceedings.