Failings exposed by Kerri's killing must lead to domestic abuse reform
PUBLISHED: 06:34 03 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:37 03 November 2018
Authorities have pledged radical reforms in the way they deal with domestic abuse cases after the killing of Kerri McAuley.
The Norwich mother-of-two was battered to death in January 2017 by her controlling ex-boyfriend Joe Storey.
Storey, 28, was well known to police and probation services.
He had beaten up five previous girlfriends and as early as 2008 was described by probation as having “the capacity to cause fatal harm” to his then partner and unborn child. But staff shortages meant he was not properly monitored.
A domestic homicide review into the 32-year-old’s death, released on Thursday, revealed a litany of failings by authorities in Norfolk.
Chairman of the review panel Gary Goose said the case showed that despite systems being in place to protect the vulnerable they could “still fail”.
“We must look again at the specific nature of domestic violence and abuse and the balance between individual rights and safeguarding those who are vulnerable,” he said.
The review came up with 32 recommendations and locally services have pledged to:
•Review the way police act on intelligence about the relationships of serial domestic abusers known to them
•Look at how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutes domestic abuse cases when a victim is reluctant to give evidence
•Look at how Clare’s Law is used to disclose a partner’s violent past to their new partner or family
•Consider making Domestic Abuse Awareness training mandatory for all hospital staff.
Storey, who started going out with Ms McAuley in 2015, managed to control her through fear, the review found.
She also feared speaking out in case her two boys were taken away by social services.
And a letter sent by Norfolk County Council children’s services in August 2016 added to her worry. It said if they became aware she was going out with Storey again they would consider child protection measures.
The department said it now no longer sent out such letters.
The McAuley family has also called for law changes nationally to prevent similar tragedies. They hope that the review will be looked at by domestic abuse minister Victoria Atkins.
But Ms McAuley’s uncle Steve Roberts, 54, said they feared this would become “just another review”.
He said: “The sad thing is this isn’t the first review and it won’t be the last one. There are two to three reviews like this a week. These are things that have been going on for years and years but the domestic violence figures aren’t going down.”
Mr Goose said he was confident the review would feed into national policy changes.
The review came up with four national recommendations, including:
•The Ministry of Justice reviews staffing in the National Probation Service to ensure realistic caseloads
•That serial domestic abusers should be given longer prison sentences and mandatory rehabilitation courses while in prison
•That a national evaluation of Clare’s Law is commissioned to assess its use and effectiveness in protecting victims.
Since Ms McAuley’s death, there have been some changes.
The probation service has recruited 20 more staff in Norfolk and Suffolk. And in May this year new domestic abuse sentencing guidelines came into effect which state that offences taking place in a domestic context should be taken more seriously.
That move has been welcomed by authors of the review, but they go further and said that the type of serial violence displayed by Storey should be treated as an aggravating factor and lead to longer prison sentences.
Norfolk domestic abuse charity Leeway also called for law changes.
Chief executive Mandy Proctor said she was hopeful the Government’s upcoming domestic abuse bill would better protect domestic abuse victims.
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, meanwhile, said she would continue the campaign in Westminster to improve laws on domestic abuse.
“In particular I will ask the Government to respond to all four of the national recommendations included in the review,” she said.
The report’s author Christine Graham said she hoped the review showed that domestic abuse was taken seriously by agencies in the area and lessons had been learned from Ms McAuley’s death.