Probe into domestic abuse suicide finds Herts police officers unaware of abuser’s history
PUBLISHED: 15:41 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:36 10 July 2020
An investigation into the suicide of an abused mum-of-three has found police officers visiting her home six weeks before her death, over a domestic disturbance, had no idea about her partner’s abusive history due to limitations in national police reporting systems.
Kellie Sutton took her own life after months of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, Steven Gane, who was later jailed for coercive and controlling behaviour.
During their five-month relationship, Gane’s abuse of Kellie included smashing her head against a table.
Gane returned home on August 23, 2017, to find Kellie unconscious, having sent him a text saying “this is all your fault”. Gane called 999, but she died in hospital three days later.
Just six weeks before she died police officers visited their Welwyn Garden City home, responding to a disturbance reported by a neighbour.
When the officers checked, there was no match with police records in respect of domestic abuse by Gane against other victims, despite there being reports to police from three previous partners. These reports were not available unless officers searched for the victims, as opposed to the perpetrator.
The police reporting systems, which have been updated since 2017, are used nationally, and Herts police said they did everything they could using the best technology available at the time.
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Senior coroner Geoffrey Sullivan conducted Kellie’s inquest and said: “This sort of information is clearly of value to inform officers’ decision-making when dealing with a report of potential domestic abuse.”
He launched an investigation, writing to Herts chief constable Charlie Hall and warning “there is a risk future deaths will occur unless action is taken”.
The coroner’s report states that the attendance of police at Kellie’s home, and the availability of non-crime information did not cause or contribute to Kellie’s death
Herts police has since introduced a case management system called Athena, which links POLE data – people, object, location and event - and will assist in identifying where perpetrators have more than one victim.
But Mr Sullivan says it does not go far enough. “It is not available as a national resource,” he said.
Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson said: “The constabulary has responded to the coroner in relation to the concern raised. Since 2017, significant progress has been made in relation to the sharing of non-crime information across force boundaries.
“In 2018 the constabulary joined a consortium of forces with the introduction of a single IT system called Athena and this has improved information sharing capability.
“At a national level, the Home Office, through the National Law Enforcement Data Programme, has created the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS). LEDS will provide police and other law enforcement agencies with current and joined-up information on demand and at the point of need.
“The system is still in the development stages but once implemented will be a useful tool that helps us to prevent crime and better safeguard the public.”
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