Call for a public inquiry into the state response to domestic violence

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Refuge calls for public inquiry after HMIC investigation criticises police and recommends further inspection of State’s response to domestic violence


 Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of RefugeSandra Horley CBE says:

“HMIC has come to a stark conclusion: the police response to domestic violence is “not good enough”.  This should be a wake-up call to every police force across the country.

Domestic violence is an horrific crime that kills two women every week.  It is a national disgrace that decades after Refuge opened the world’s first safe house for victims of domestic violence, the police are still not responding appropriately to women and children’s cries for help.

Refuge wants to see lasting change.  Please join us in our call for a public inquiry by signing our petition.”

Read Sandra’s full statement here.


Refuge’s campaign for a public inquiry is backed by a number of families who have lost loved ones to domestic violence


Sharon de Souza, mother of the late Cassie HasanovicCassandra (‘Cassie’) Hasanovic was killed by her estranged husband, Hajrudin Hasanovic, in 2008.

Sharon de Souza, Cassie’s mother, says:  “My daughter Cassie was a beautiful, courageous young woman, who did everything within her power to protect herself and her children. She was a wonderful mother whose greatest wish was the chance to watch her children grow up.  Although her situation was in the hands of three different agencies, ultimately these agencies let her down. The jury have unanimously decided what we always felt: that there were a number of serious failings by all three state agencies that ultimately impacted on her chance to a life.  I would like to end by supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry in the hope that another family does not have to go through what we have.”


Hayden Slack, brother of the late Rachel Slack, and his wife, MelonyRachael and Auden Slack were killed by Rachael’s ex-partner, Andrew Cairns, in 2010.

Hayden and Melony Slack, Rachael Slack’s brother and sister-in-law, say: “The space that has been left in our lives by the tragic loss of Rachael and Auden will never be filled and never should be.  Rachael was a devoted mother, an intelligent, trusting and truly caring young woman.  Last year, a jury inquest found that police failings contributed to the deaths of Rachael and Auden.  We hope that this finding will help ensure that the police learn lessons and instigate necessary changes to their approach and procedures in order to protect the lives of other women and children deemed to be at risk of domestic violence – a problem the Coroner described as an “epidemic”.  And we add our voice to the calls of Refuge and other families such as that of Maria Stubbings for a public inquiry into state failings in response to domestic violence.”


Manuel Fernandez, Celia Peachey, and Bengi StubbingsMaria Stubbings was killed by her ex-partner, Marc Chivers – a man who was known to police, having served a life sentence for killing another ex-girlfriend – in 2008. 

Manuel Fernandez (pictured far left), Maria’s brother, says: “The police say lessons have been learned – but then we read about other cases where Essex Police and other forces have failed women in Maria’s situation.  That’s why we’re calling for a public inquiry.  We want justice for Maria and for all women facing domestic violence who are failed by the state.”




Joseph Lynch, brother of the late Colette Lynch.Colette Lynch was killed by her ex-partner, Percy Wright, in 2005.

Joseph Lynch, Colette’s brother, says: “I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry in memory of my dear sister, Colette. So many of the deaths taken by domestic violence are preventable.  The police, social services, mental health services and the Crown Prosecution Service need to get the basics right.  My message we have is clear – do your jobs properly and prevent the preventable.”




Family of the late Katie SummersKatie Summers was killed by her ex-partner, Brian Taylor, in 2008.

Sarah Summers (pictured right), Katie’s sister, says: “I want to see real change in the way that women experiencing domestic violence are treated by the criminal justice system.  Too many police officers, judges and social workers still don’t understand the severity of this crime.  That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry.  I am speaking out in Katie’s name – to help other women and children get the support they need.”


Debbie Buttars and her husband CliveHannah Fisher was killed by her ex-partner, Simon Marsh, in 2009.

Debbie Buttars, Hannah’s mother, says: “I can’t help Hannah anymore but I feel I need to do something positive, to ensure that there is a benefit from the huge tragedy of her loss. Hopefully by raising awareness of domestic violence I can help other families avoid what we have been through – and what we continue to go through. That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry.”




Gurda Dhaliwal took her life in 2005 following years of violent abuse from her husband.

Nav Jagpal, Gurda’s brother, says: “My beloved sister Gurda ended her life in February 2005 after 20 years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her violent husband. I was sickened when in May 2006 he was acquitted by the court. I will continue to fight for justice for women experiencing domestic violence. That’s why I am supporting Refuge’s call for a public inquiry into the police and state response to victims of domestic violence.”



Sabina Akhtar was killed by her husband, Malik Mannan, in 2008.

Reaz and Rasheda Talukder, Sabina’s uncle and aunt, say: “Sabina was loved very dearly by her family and friends – she was a brave woman and was devoted to her son. We are adding our voices to Refuge’s campaign for a public inquiry because we want to continue to fight against the injustice that other women like Sabina experience.”



All photos copyright Julian Nieman


I’ve signed the petition – what else can I do?

Adding your name to our petition is a fantastic first step to bringing this important issue to the Government’s attention – but there’s so much more you can do to help:

Click here to share the petition on Facebook. Please call on all of your friends and family to sign

Click here to tweet about the petition


 Domestic violence, homicide, and the police: the facts

  • On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales
  • Each domestic violence homicide costs the taxpayer £1 million
  • On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police
  • Only 23% of victims report domestic violence to the police
  • Every 30 seconds, police in the UK receive a domestic assistance call
  • Domestic violence accounts for 16-25% of all violent crime
  • Domestic violence has the highest rate of repeat victimisation of any crime

Find out more about domestic violence


“Am I being abused?” Read our guide to recognising domestic violence

Support a friend or family member

Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid)

Help for men experiencing domestic violence

Violence against women as a men’s issue (Jackson Katz TEDxFiDiWomen talk)

Why domestic violence victims don’t leave (Leslie Morgan Steiner TEDxRainier talk)

Power and Control: why charming men can make dangerous lovers by Sandra Horley CBE

Get involved with Refuge