Criticism of Police

Recently I have been criticised for my criticism of police – labelled as ‘anti-police’ and ‘cop hater’, all because I’ve dared to question the attitudes, beliefs or comments of some officers.

Whilst I don’t deny questioning or challenging certain negative behaviour from police officers (and feel justified in doing so), I have also given credit where it has been due.  Following the verdict of the court case in December, I took time to publicly thank those individual police officers, whom I had met via Twitter, for the time and effort they had each given to help rebuild my faith in the police service, without which I wouldn’t have proceeded with the court case.  I also published a blog https://wordpress.com/post/ivy1428.wordpress.com/86 to express my gratitude to all those officers who have had a positive influence on our lives.

Although I will always try to praise the good work carried out by those police officers who work hard and do all they can as often as they can to help those in need of assistance, this will not stop me questioning those whose attitudes, beliefs or behaviour warrants challenging.  Personally, I don’t think this amounts to being ‘anti-police’ or a ‘cop hater’.

I haven’t publicly shared the reasons for my initial critical view of the police service as a whole, but will share a little of my experience now which will hopefully provide some insight and offer an explanation for my negative views at times.

My sexual abuse was first brought to the attention of police in the late 80’s when I was 17.  Two A&E consultants contacted police over concerns of injuries they had uncovered during a hospital admission.  The police dismissed their written reports stating they had spoken to my alleged abuser who had denied any wrongdoing.  I was subsequently released back into his care.  I fully accept that the 80’s were a completely different era and incidents of abuse were not handled as seriously or as sensitively as they are now.

Imagine my utter disappointment then when I was encouraged to contact police in late 2014 to report on-going sexual and domestic violence, to be met with a police officer informing me that he didn’t believe me and that I had derived sexual gratification from my abusive experience.  25 years on and attitudes and beliefs didn’t appear to have changed much.

What followed were months of chaotic and disjointed investigations in which multiple officers from various different divisions and even different police forces were involved, none of whom were willing to share information or communicate with each other.

At the very start of the investigation I was asked to take part in a number of interviews which were used as a ‘scoping exercise’ to determine the complexity of the case, and to decide who would be best placed to manage and further investigate the case.  It emerged earlier this year (2016) following an internal review, that my case was initially handed to the DV Unit for them to manage.  Whilst they were prepared to investigate the case against my husband, they were not prepared to investigate the sexual offences carried out by his colleagues/associates whom he had involved in my abuse.  The case was subsequently handed to the Sexual Offences Unit for them to investigate.  They deemed the offences were linked to trafficking and passed the case to the unit dealing with trafficking for sexual exploitation.  However, because I was being trafficked by members of my own family my case didn’t fall within their remit.  As I had been forced into marrying my husband they passed my case onto the Forced Marriage Unit.  Once again, because my forced marriage was for sexual exploitation reasons and not due to cultural or religious beliefs they refused to take ownership of the case.  As each specialised unit had deemed that my case did not fit their individual remit, my case was eventually handed back to the original CID officer from my local Neighbourhood Poling Team for him to investigate.

As the CID officer from my local police station had not previously investigated any DV or Rape cases (his remit was burglary, theft, drunk/drug related offences, shop lifting and physical assaults) he decided he would only investigate the incidents which occurred within his geographical area, the rest he passed on to the police stations/forces in which the additional incidents had occurred for them to conduct their own investigations.  This involved a further 18 individual officers.  I requested that one officer be appointed as my ‘Point of Contact’ in order that I didn’t have to deal with each of these separate officers, but this request was refused.  I also requested that one officer be appointed to conduct the video interviews for each of the sexual offences involving the different offenders.  Again, this request was refused and I was informed that each of the separate officers would conduct their own individual video interviews.

I’m sure I do not need to explain the level of distress this caused.  I recall attending one interview with a CID officer from a different division.  Thankfully my IDVA attended the police station with me.  The incident he was investigating was a physical assault which had been carried out in his geographical area by an offender who had previously raped me.  Prior to the interview being conducted I was led into a meeting room with my IDVA.  There I was instructed by the CID officer that I was only to discuss the events relating to the actual physical assault during the interview, under no circumstances whatsoever was I to mention that the offender had previously raped me.  In his words, “that’s not my remit, I don’t handle rape cases, someone else will speak to you about that”.  After asking me if we were clear I was then led off to complete the interview.

Ten days later I was sat in a Multi-Agency Case Conference Meeting attended by over 15 professionals.  The Police Safeguarding Officer handed over her report in which it stated that I had refused to co-operate with police by refusing to provide a police statement for the rape by this individual.  I was beyond speechless.  My IDVA immediately interrupted the meeting to state that she had attended the police station with me 10 days prior and had been present when I was instructed by the CID officer not to discuss the rape.  The Chair of the meeting interjected by stating that the CID officer referred to, was not currently present at the meeting to either confirm or deny what had been said, and therefore the report stating I was refusing to co-operate with police would stand.

That is one of the main reasons I will not trust what a police officer tells me.  When a police officer can instruct you to not disclose information, you comply, and they then go on to write a report stating you refused to provide information ……. There are simply no words for that level of betrayal.  From that moment on, any meeting that I am required to attend with police I won’t do unless accompanied by legal representation.

Whilst all of this was going on, we were also being relocated multiple times for safeguarding reasons.  Even when we moved to a new force area, the DI in charge of our safeguarding requested that the investigation process be consolidated and overseen by one specialised unit in order to better facilitate our safeguarding.  His request was refused.  As such, he found it impossible to try to continue to safeguard us with the number of individuals involved in our case and except for the one case which proceeded to court in December he advised and requested that I withdraw from all additional cases, a request which I agreed to.

I now have in excess of 250 pages from various reviews which have been carried out in relation to our case (Internal Review, Independent Review and Serious Case Review).  The reviews highlight all the errors which occurred during the management and investigation of our case.  Whilst I have received written apologies from every other agency involved in our case for the errors which occurred in their management and handling of the case, I have, to date, not received any apology from my original Police Force for the errors which occurred during their management and investigation of our case.

Whilst I have been assured that ‘Lessons will be learnt’ I am not convinced that any actions or changes have been implemented to ensure that the same mistakes do not reoccur in the future.

It is as a result of my own personal experience that I continue to challenge and question negative attitudes, beliefs or behaviour from within the Police Service as I would hate for any other individual to ever have to endure what we faced.  I don’t believe that my criticism amounts to being ‘anti-police’ or a ‘cop hater’ and hope that by sharing this little bit of my story will help provide more clarity as to why I choose to question and challenge.

 

GCSE Results Day

Tomorrow is GCSE exam results day. A day, which my eldest daughter has nervously and anxiously been waiting for – the countdown timer is well and truly in operation and has been for quite some time now!  I too am anxious on her behalf, desperate for her to have obtained the grades she is striving to achieve. She has set herself an incredibly high target though, one which I know she will be bitterly disappointed with if she fails to reach it.

Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome however, I am already extremely proud of her. When I consider what she has had to overcome in these past 22 months, it honestly is truly amazing to see the level of dedication and commitment which she applies to her school work.

Over the past 22 months, due to the severity of our Domestic Violence at the hands of her father, she has been relocated 4 times by police (which included moving into new counties we had never lived in before) changed schools twice, changed her name, cut off all ties with any previous friends and family, experienced me attempt suicide three times and stood by me as I went through a rape trial.

Her current school didn’t offer the same subject choice as her previous schools and she has had to learn a completely new subject in the space of a few short months, as well as self-tutoring herself across all subjects on the modules she had missed changing schools. Initially, when she joined her current school, the Head of Year wouldn’t allow her to study Separate Science/Triple Science, stating that only students who had been at the school for a lengthy period of time and who had shown a track record of having the ability to obtain good results across all 3 sciences, could have access to this specific subject choice. She was devastated at receiving the news.

I immediately argued my daughter’s case that Domestic Violence had already negatively affected so much of her life. Her father’s abuse shouldn’t be allowed to continue to act as further punishment towards her, nor should it be allowed to continue to influence her future – after all, Domestic Violence is never a child’s responsibility.

Thankfully, the school accepted my proposal, although implemented some strict achievement goals which, if not achieved, would allow them to remove her from the course.

For 4 months prior to the start of the exams, she dedicated 6 hours each and every day (outside of school hours), to studying to achieve the goals she has set herself.

My daughter is so determined and incredibly driven to not allow her abusive past, to in anyway whatsoever, shape or impact on her future. She is resolute in her focus to become a strong and independent woman, capable of all that she sets out to achieve.

She has her sights set on 2 career paths, both drawn out following our experiences of Domestic Violence. One is in medical research of Mental Health conditions and the other in Criminal Psychology.

Tomorrow provides the first indication of whether or not she is on target to achieve her ambitions, and I for one am desperately hoping all her hard work and dedication pays off. Most importantly though, whatever the outcome of her results, I am an incredibly proud mum, as I know the struggle she has gone through to make it this far.

Red Tape

Eighteen months ago I sat across the table from a police officer who advised me that following their risk assessment, myself and 2 daughters were at severe risk of being murdered by my husband within the next 48 hours.

The police officer stressed how important it was for us to leave the family home immediately. Within 24 hours and with very few possessions, my daughters and I had fled and were relocated and housed in temporary accommodation.

Due to safeguarding failures by supporting agencies our address was made known to the perpetrator on numerous occasions. As a result, we were relocated multiple times by police following further incidents of violence.

One of our relocations involved being moved into a new area of the country. On arrival in the new police force area, a request was made for us all to change our names for safeguarding reasons. This was done.

All agencies and government departments were notified of the changes made and the majority of organisations accepted the changes including HMRC & DWP. However, when I applied to the Passport Office for new passports to reflect our new names we encountered problems.

My passport application was accepted and granted and I received my new passport without any issues. However, the Passport Office refused to accept my daughters’ applications. I was informed that in order to change a child under the age of 16’s name, if both parents still hold Parental Responsibility then written consent is required from both parties. For obvious reasons, obtaining consent from their biological father was impossible and would completely negate the reason for changing the girls’ names in the first place.

The Chief Superintendent provided a letter of support evidencing our high risk of domestic violence and confirming the police’s request for us to change our names for safeguarding reasons. This letter was not accepted by the Passport Office however and they continued to insist that consent was needed from the girls’ father.

The Passport Office advised that the only way to proceed without their father’s consent was to wait until the girls reached 16 years of age, at which stage they could legally change their names without parental consent. They advised me to obtain a new Deed Poll at this stage and then re-apply for a new passport.

My eldest recently turned 16. As advised, she applied for a new Deed Poll to reflect her new name and submitted a new application form for a new passport providing the original Deed Poll as evidence of her change of name.

Yesterday we received a letter back from the Passport Office informing us they were unable to proceed with the application unless we provided an additional 3 documents providing proof of her new name from the following list:
Driving License
Tax Record
Employment Record
Mortgage Statement
Tenancy Agreement

She is 16 …….

I phoned the Passport Office helpline yesterday and spoke to a supervisor. I identified the problem that, as a 16 year old, my daughter is unable to provide any of those documents listed. I asked what alternative documents could be submitted as appropriate substitutes but he was unable to provide any advice on what would be permitted. His only advice was to submit what we have but he could not guarantee that anything other than what was listed on the ‘required list’ would be accepted.

This is a classic example of agencies not working together to safeguard victims of domestic violence. How can it be acceptable for the police to request certain safeguarding measures to be implemented only for another agency to reject those measures? Where does that leave the victims?

If, as a country, we are trying to safeguard and protect victims of domestic violence then agencies have to develop better ways of working together and supporting each other to provide adequate safeguarding measures for victims.

Child Counselling

Seven months ago, my youngest daughter (then aged 12) walked into her school registration class one Thursday morning & told her Form Tutor that she didn’t want to be alive anymore & wanted to die.

I remember well the frantic phone call I received from the Head of Year informing me that my daughter had been taken out of class & was sitting with a SLT member of staff & requesting that I attend the crisis meeting hastily arranged for later that day.

Don’t get me wrong, no parent ever wants to receive a phone call like that and like any other normal parent, the news was devastating to hear. However, it was by no means surprising to me.

From the moment we were relocated by MARAC for the first time, my youngest had struggled to cope. She began to self-harm numerous times on a daily basis and expressed her desire to no longer be alive. I took what I assumed to be the correct action – I informed our GP, I informed the Social Worker, I informed the school, I informed the DV Children’s Key Worker, I informed the police officers working on our case & I informed my IDVA.

Apart from the DV Key Worker (not a trained counsellor) arranging to meet my daughter on a weekly basis, no further help was offered. In fact everyone seemed to point the finger at someone else – the GP informed me it was the Social Worker’s issue to sort out, the Social Worker told me it was the School’s job to arrange counselling & the school referred me back to the GP & so it continued.

The situation continued to deteriorate with us being relocated a further two times & the last relocation required a move completely out of the area. This resulted in an entirely new & unfamiliar team of professionals working on our case. My daughter’s distress continued to escalate & with it her self-harming & suicidal thoughts. Once again I informed all the relevant people, desperately looking for assistance to help my daughter. When we initially moved into the new area, due to local council bureaucracy, my youngest daughter was out of school for 3 months whilst appeals were made for her to be accepted into the same school as my eldest. When asking for help we went round in the same circles as before with the GP informing me it was the Social Worker’s job & the Social Worker informing me it was for the school to sort out – it seemed to have no bearing to her that my daughter wasn’t in a school for the school to provide counselling!

Once she was eventually allocated a place at school (mid April 2015), I immediately informed her Head of Year & the Safeguarding officer of her desperate need for counselling and her name was added to the waiting list. The school were fully informed of the nature & severity of our case as the Safeguarding manager was required to attend all multi-agency conference meetings & had been updated on the case by the police Child Protection Officer handling my daughters’ case. In the meantime, my daughter was given a 30min session once every 2 weeks with the school Pastoral Support Worker.

Such was the level of her trauma by this stage, that my daughter didn’t even attend school on a daily basis – if I managed to get her to attend 3 times per week it was an achievement.

Eventually she was allocated a weekly counselling session with the school counsellor ….. 3 weeks before the end of the school year. I had originally been informed by the Safeguarding Manager that every child accessing counselling through the school system was only entitled to 8 sessions, but that due to the severity of my daughter’s case this would be increased. Because her counselling had started prior to the end of the school year & as she had only had 3 sessions, I assumed the counselling would continue once she started the new school year in September – I was wrong. With every new school year starts a new counselling program which you are required to register for at the end of the previous year. My daughter’s name went back to the bottom of the waiting list!

It was early October when the phone call came from the school. In the crisis meeting the Head of Year, Safeguarding Manager & Pastoral Support Worker all expressed their utter shock at the current situation & how completely unaware they were of how my daughter had deteriorated to this level. I sat and listened in complete bewilderment – how many times & how many people did I have to keep informing & literally begging for help for this poor child? I sat and listened as they squabbled among themselves, pointing the finger at each other.

An urgent referral was put through to the counselling team & an assessment was arranged. Although a counsellor was allocated, it was a different counsellor to whom she had had previously. This counsellor also informed my daughter that if she divulged any information relating to abuse, the counsellor would have to contact police. This baffled me as the previous counsellor was already aware of the abuse suffered & the need for counselling was as a direct result of abuse from her father. This information only served to cause further distress to my daughter as the police we already involved & due to a very negative prior experience, my daughter was terrified of police officers. The 5 sessions she had with this counsellor where of no benefit as she was too afraid to talk about anything in case the police were called.

At this time, I had been receiving support from the local SARC (sexual assault referral centre). I am not sure why, but it had completely skipped my notice until my ISVA reminded me that there were trauma counsellors specifically trained to work with abused children available at the centre. I completed a referral form, although I was warned that the waiting list to access support was approximately 12 months as demand for counselling was so high. I was prepared to wait though as I was desperate to get her the right sort of help she needed.

Thankfully however, I was contacted at the beginning of January & informed a space had become available for my daughter to be seen by a trauma counsellor. I went along with my daughter to the assessment appointment. I explained the nature & severity of the case, although she already had access to my case notes with my permission prior to our appointment.

My daughter has now had 6 sessions with this trauma counsellor & I am astounded by the difference. She has gone from being a child who didn’t want to be alive, who self-harmed daily & who didn’t want to go to school to a child who once again laughs & jokes & plays the fool and who no longer self-harms.

She is a completely different child all thanks to the specialised trauma help she has been given access to. I cannot begin to express the relief I feel to see this remarkable change in her, there were days when I thought her childhood was lost forever. Of course the abuse has changed us all & undoubtedly we have a lot more to overcome, but seeing her laugh again is something I had begun to think would never happen again.

Our situation has made me more aware of just how vital it is for abused children to receive the correct sort of counselling and support, without it recovery is an uphill struggle if not impossible. I will forever be grateful for the specialised help my daughter has finally received.