Refuge responds to findings of inquest into murder of Sabina Akhtar

Sabina Akhtar was stabbed to death by her husband in 2008, two months after she told the police he had assaulted her and threatened to kill her.

The inquest into her murder today concluded that serious failings had been made by Greater Manchester Police, Manchester Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service which may have contributed to Sabina’s death.

Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:

“Refuge is pleased that the coroner in the inquest into the death of Sabina Akhtar found that Greater Manchester Police, Manchester Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service made serious and significant failings which possibly contributed to Sabina’s death.  Refuge believes that this finding sheds light on the systemic failures which victims of domestic violence continue to encounter on a daily basis.  It is a victory for abused women everywhere.

The failures identified by the coroner included: a lack of understanding of domestic violence; poor supervision of frontline staff; a lack of communication between agencies; failure to risk assess; failure to investigate and gather evidence.  Refuge believes that, had the state agencies carried out their duties properly, Sabina may possibly be alive today.

Sabina’s death was a tragedy that was both predictable and preventable.  The police repeatedly failed to grasp the severe danger she was in, despite knowing that her husband had brutally assaulted and strangled her, and threatened to kill her on more than one occasion.  Social services also failed Sabina spectacularly.  Despite receiving three separate referrals for her and her two-year-old son, they closed the case without even doing an initial risk assessment.  The CPS failed to charge Sabina’s husband.

I am shocked and saddened that Sabina’s desperate pleas for help fell on so many deaf ears.  What kind of society allows vulnerable women and young children to be terrorised in their own homes?  The dismal truth is that the systemic failure highlighted in Sabina’s case is, sadly, all too common.  Every single day Refuge works with women who have been let down by the police and other agencies that have a duty to protect them.

Domestic violence kills two women every single week – a horrifying statistic, and one that has remained static for a decade.  Enough is enough.  The police, and other agencies, must improve their response to domestic violence victims.  Sabina’s death must not be in vain.

Refuge can help.  Refuge wants to work with Greater Manchester Police and other forces across the country to improve their response to domestic violence.  We can help train officers to understand the complex dynamics and risks of domestic violence.  We can help officers to keep vulnerable women and children safe.

The police – and other agencies – are stuck in a mindset of inaction.  We need to create a culture of action.  A culture which understands that domestic violence homicide is predictable and preventable – and does something about it.”