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6 April 2010, 12:51
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to look at the case of Mavis Clift, who was killed in a house fire in Northampton in 2008.
The 75 year old died on New Year's Day of 2008 after a fire at her home in Kingsthorpe. It also left her husband injured and her daughter, Susan Barber, with serious burns.
The fire had been started by Ms Barber's estranged husband, Paul, following a long running campaign of threats and domestic abuse by him. He later died in prison before his trial was heard.
In the months leading up to the fire, Mrs Barber had telephoned police repeatedly reporting harassment, domestic abuse, criminal damage and threats to kill by her estranged husband, and reported that she was 'terrified of what he was going to do'. Other family members had also expressed concerns to the police about his behaviour.
This led to a multi-agency case review being carried out with the report being published in June 2009. It identified a series of failings on behalf of the authorities, with several points for improvement since being taken onboard by Northamptonshire police.
But the IPCC are unhappy that the case has not, until now, been referred to them. IPCC Commissioner, Amerdeep Somal, said: "This is a death where there was prior contact with the police and this case should have been mandatorily referred to the IPCC by Northamptonshire Police back in January 2008. To make matters worse, the force failed again to refer the case to us when the family made a complaint last year. I am dismayed by this failure to fulfil their statutory duties to refer this case to the IPCC, not once but twice in relation to the same case. The matter was only referred to the IPCC after lawyers acting for the family wrote to the force enquiring why the matter was not referred as it should have been. I am sorry if the late referral and now belated investigation by the IPCC, as a direct result of the force’s failure to refer to us, adds further to their considerable grief. I am taking the matter up with Northamptonshire Police. The IPCC will be discussing with the family their concerns, and examine records of police contact and the accounts of police officers themselves.
"While it is clear from the multi-agency review efforts were made to learn lessons from what happened the recommendations related to organisational policy, and the conduct of individual officers has never been independently scrutinised. It appears that a woman suffered a sustained period of harassment and threats from her estranged husband, tragically culminating in the murder of her mother and significant injury to herself. I have decided that the seriousness of the events and frequency of police contact before the death necessitate an independent examination by the IPCC as to whether there are any misconduct issues for individual officers.
"The Commission has good expertise from a range of domestic abuse cases the IPCC has investigated to help police forces improve their service to victims, and we will ensure any further learning points are picked up. We will submit our investigation report to the family, the force and HM Coroner, and make our findings public as soon as we are able."