Victim 'Let Down' By 999 Call Handler

A victim of domestic violence who was seriously sexually assaulted was ''gravely let down'' after a 999 call handler told her ''you don't need the police'' as she tried to get help, a watchdog has found.

The woman called 999 in February and was transferred to a Hampshire police control room.

Her call was abandoned, but the telephone operator said that a struggle and a man arguing could be heard.

Around 15 minutes later, a control room supervisor called the woman back and told her ''you don't need the police'', asking a series of closed questions, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found.

During the call a man could be heard whispering in the background, the watchdog said.

No officers were sent out to help her that night, but the next day police were told that she had been seriously sexually assaulted.

Today the IPCC found that intelligence checks on the woman's name, address and telephone number were not carried out - despite entries on the call log to say that they had been.

If these checks had been done, they would have revealed that the woman was suffering domestic violence.

The IPCC said that the way police handled the call was ''unacceptable''.

IPCC Commissioner Mike Franklin said:

''It is not possible to say with any certainty whether police attendance would have prevented this very serious sexual assault.

''However, what is clear is that this woman, who was in a vulnerable position, was gravely let down by Hampshire Constabulary and the control room supervisor when she needed their assistance.

''The failure to protect this woman was due to individual rather than systemic or organisational flaws.''

The IPCC also found that the force control room supervisor should face internal proceedings for gross misconduct.

Hampshire Constabulary said that it had reviewed the initial call and referred the matter to the IPCC.

Assistant Chief Constable David Pryde said:

''We acknowledge the IPCC's report and accept its findings. In this instance, we failed to provide the appropriate level of service and for that I am deeply sorry to both the woman and her family.

''The IPCC report found that our failure to protect the woman was not due to systemic or organisational failings and that the force does have accurate information and comprehensive training in place to prevent a repeat of further incidents such as this.

''We receive around 27,500 calls relating to domestic abuse every year. We work closely with partners, including local authorities and Victim Support, to identify domestic abuse victims, help them access the support they need and help prevent reoffending.

''We work hard to equip our staff with the training they need and work is ongoing to improve information sharing and procedures for responding to domestic abuse situations where a history of violence exists.

"This means officers and staff are able to access the information they need to make them aware of the wider picture and make sound judgments.

''I hope that this in some measure will reassure our communities that we remain committed to protecting people from those who would cause them harm and that when we fall short of those standards we will always seek to learn and improve.''