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22 August 2012, 10:24
There were systematic failings by Essex police which failed to arrest a man who went on to brutally murder his former partner and their two-year-old daughter in Braintree, a watchdog has said.
A report released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) catalogued failings of systems within Essex Police's response when investigating incidents involving Christine Chambers and David Oakes.
Oakes, 50, was jailed for life earlier this year after being found guilty of the murder of Ms Chambers and their two-year-old daughter Shania at their home in Braintree, last June.
The investigation found a lack of adequate training, insufficient resources allocated to domestic violence cases and poor oversight by Essex Police.
It said inadequate action was taken to arrest Oakes at the earliest opportunity when reports were made of him breaching a non-molestation order.
A catalogue of incidents involving the couple reported to the force over a two-year period were treated in isolation by officers, with the force not taking Ms Chambers' fear of her partner into consideration as a motivation for her not pursuing complaints against Oakes, it said.
An escalation in the number of calls from Ms Chambers in the two months before the murders in June last year was also missed by the force, the report found.
Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason said: "Essex Police accepts the findings of the IPCC report, and apologises for the failures identified there.
"The Independent Police Complaints Commission has found that significant information concerning Oakes' violence towards Christine Chambers was not available to the police or social services.
"The IPCC also stated that there was no information that Oakes had access to a firearm. Essex Police acts promptly and decisively whenever it receives credible intelligence about illegally held weapons.
"Domestic abuse is a crime which blights our society.
"Dealing with domestic abuse is often complex and challenging, and places significant demands on the police and other agencies.
"Essex Police accepts the report of the IPCC and welcomes the recommendation that processes should be developed for better information sharing between police forces and agencies such as social services, courts and solicitors. This is particularly important in cases involving child custody proceedings, where allegations of domestic violence have not been reported to officers.
"Essex Police has conducted a meticulous review of our practices for managing and investigating domestic abuse cases.
"This review has led to an increase in staffing resources with 76 additional posts created in the force's Public Protection teams, including a dedicated Domestic Abuse Intelligence Team. This team is responsible for providing specialist advice and for gathering all available intelligence to assist front line officers responding to domestic abuse incidents. The IPCC investigation clearly found that Essex Police has completed or put in place actions to strengthen its response to domestic abuse incidents."