We do everything in our power to help the women we support, as this blog post shows
Broxtowe Women’s Project (BWP) have successfully challenged an unjust conviction for one of our service users, resulting in Nottinghamshire Police withdrawing the charge against her and reviewing its processes and procedures.
Anna (not her real name), a woman supported by our service, was being subjected to serious and relentless harassment by a violent former partner, Carl (not his real name), who was intent on causing her more distress.
Carl had spent much of his adult life in prison and had numerous convictions for offences including the harassment of a former partner, for which he was served a life-long Restraining Order.
However, on one occasion Carl approached the Police claiming Anna had assaulted him, presenting them with a recording of an incident between himself and Anna. The Police interviewed and cautioned Anna.
During the investigation it seemed little consideration was given to the credibility of each party – she, a hard-working single mother of good character, he, a known perpetrator of domestic abuse and criminal.
It also seemed the context of the allegation, including Anna’s claims the incident had been set up and recorded by Carl, was not taken into consideration, nor were the background of repeated reports of harassment made by her against him.
The impact of being cautioned was devastating for Anna. The stress and fear caused by the harassment had already forced her to give up her job as a carer. Now she was prohibited from resuming her career due to the requirement of a Disclosure and Barring Service check, where this would show and would likely prohibit her from resuming employment in this sector. She was depressed and anxious due to the harassment she was still suffering, had no job and now she had a caution for an offence of violence.
BWP made a formal complaint to the Professional Standards Department of Nottinghamshire Police on Anna’s behalf.
We set out in detail our claim that to issue a caution in these circumstances was unjust. Our case included that there appeared to be insufficient evidence that an assault had taken place, that Carl, the complainant was not a credible witness, that there were errors in various Police processes and that the Police had paid no consideration to the context surrounding this alleged assault. Regrettably, the internal Police investigation of our complaint upheld the actions of the Police as ‘reasonable and proportionate’.
Not deterred, BWP requested a review of this decision by the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner. Thankfully, following a thorough investigation, the OPCC upheld our complaint and recommended Anna’s caution be withdrawn. The OPCC also stated:
“Clear guidance should be issued to Police Officers who are considering issuing a caution to an alleged offender who has previously reported a pattern of domestic abuse and who has made counter allegations against the same complainant. In this context it is important to understand the nature of the relationship, context of offending and establish who is the primary victim and aggressor. Nottinghamshire Police should review its procedure for Out of Court Disposals. The review should take into account the findings of this case, in particular ensuring the full context of an incident, relationship and offending is considered when making a decision to caution.”
By highlighting and challenging this injustice, we hope that lessons will be learnt, and other women will not suffer in the way that Anna has done. Despite her suffering, the harassment has now stopped since Carl moved out of the area. Anna can recommence her career as a carer, a vocation she has always loved. She also has the confidence that her caution has been removed and she no longer feels the stigma of being criminalised.
Working closely with the police
Staff at BWP regularly work closely with Nottinghamshire Police and have a good working relationship with them; we respect their hard work and dedication. In all large organisations, mistakes will occur, injustices will be made, and innocent people will be wronged. Advocating for women experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse is what we do, and if we see injustice, we will stop at nothing and do everything in our power to put things right. While injustices remain, our job is not done.
We are proud of the outcome that we helped secure, and that Nottinghamshire Police are now going to review their processes and procedures which will hopefully support women who have not yet accessed our services.