Head of the Actions Against the Police Department at Irvings Law, Mr Matthew McConville, has successfully represented a client (Mrs D) against Gwent Police in a claim for breaching her human rights on the basis of serious and egregious errors.
Mrs D reported harassment to West Mercia Police from her estranged husband whom lived in the Gwent area; Mrs D also disclosed to West Mercia Police a series of sexual assaults that had been committed against her by the same individual too. DC Evans was allocated as the Officer in the Case and spoke with Mrs D who was unsure at this stage if she wished to make a formal complaint as she was going through the Family Court at that time over custody surrounding her daughter with the same person and as such, she wished to consider her options.
Subsequently, Mrs D contacted the Police stating that she now wished to make a formal complaint against her said estranged husband and was then video interviewed by DC Evans. At the conclusion of the said interview and prior to the interview machine being turned off, the following conversation took place between Mrs D and DC Evans.
Mrs D – ‘I don’t know of anything that he has done to [daughter], I don’t mean, I don’t know if sexually or physically or whatever, but I don’t understand why her personality really changed when she was on her own with him, she is frightened of young men, she’s frightened of changing rooms, and I didn’t like the way he would change her. I thought it was because he was ill-educated in changing a little girl, I didn’t like the way he used to change her and I don’t know, that’s my opinion from what I would see. I would come home from work and she would not want to be anywhere near him, she would be nervous around him and would just want to be with me.’
DC Evans – ‘How long would that happen?’
Mrs D – ‘It was up until she was a year old and now she’s twenty months and she hasn’t seen him since March and it seems that since she hasn’t seen him, she’s starting to improve with younger men, she is still nervous of younger men. She used to be frightened of younger men, I mean she would scream for a good hour, even when I got home, if a young man went ‘hello’, she would be fearful’.
DC Evans – ‘Did you ever notice any marks on [daughter], anything that you couldn’t explain? Any bruises?’
Mrs D – ‘No, only ones that he’d said she’d fallen into the TV cabinet, which as a crawling baby, that happens. Again, I WITNESSED HIM SHAKING HER AND SHOUTING AT HER WHEN I WALKED IN FROM WORK ONCE, OF WHICH I TOOK HER OFF HIM AND SAID ‘YOU DO NOT DO THAT TO A BABY AND TOOK HER UPSTAIRS’. Again he cried, he just couldn’t cope, he was upset, she knows what she’s doing, she’s naughty and the shouting at her at night, when he can’t seem to calm her, or doesn’t like her crying because he’s tired, that’s swearing and shouting at her. So whether or not her behaviour has been because of that, whether he was shouting at her when I was in work, I don’t know. But there’s something, I don’t know why.’
DC Evans – ‘But you’ve got nothing?’
Mrs D – ‘I’ve got nothing substantial. I didn’t like the way he would change her, he was rough and he would stare.’
No further questions were then asked by DC Evans or the Officer monitoring, DC Treherne around the shaking of Mrs D daughter. The mother of Mrs D also provided DC Evans with notes that she had hand-written herself which said:
‘…he would constantly call [daughter] naughty and one time as he changed her nappy he spread her legs apart , poked her roughly with a wipe and then just stared at her private parts. This completely disturbed us, it’s not normal part of changing a nappy’.
DC Evans stated in her duty report that from the information that was provided to her by Mrs D, that her ex-husband was ‘a young new father who was learning about the responsibilities of looking after a baby and being a parent’. DC Evans further stated that from Mrs D’ss interview, she had no concerns around the ex-husband’s ability to look after the baby. As such, this matter was then not sent to the CPS on the grounds of insufficient evidence to charge. Mrs D then challenged this and when she did so, Gwent Police said that no child abuse concerns were ever reported.
Given the above disclosure that Mrs D made to DC Evans, she requested a Right to Review of the said decision but this too was surprisingly dismissed. To seek recourse and answers, Mrs D then lodged a complaint to Gwent Police’s Professional Standards Department. In a Complaint Investigation Report, DS Brown and then DSI Judith Roberts (who is the Head of Gwent PoliceForce’s said Professional Standards Department) concluded that Mrs D’s complaint was upheld in respect of DC Evans failing to investigate concerns that were raised by her about the treatment of her estranged husband towards their daughter and that DC Evans failed to notify Social Services over concerns that were raised by Mrs D about the same too.
Within the said report, DS Chaplin (who has eleven years’ experience in child protection) observed that Mrs D’s disclosure clearly amounted to a common assault whereby a referral should have been forwarded to Social Services following the receipt of this information. This would then have led to a child protection medical being conducted and a joint Police / Social Services investigation instigated. Within the referral that should have been made, the information about Mrs D’s estranged husband swearing and shouting at their daughter should have been included too.
Rightly, Mrs D wanted compensation for these serious and egregious failing by Gwent Police and found Mr McConville who offered no win, no fee terms to her without hesitation. After this, Mr McConville alleged that such significant failing amounted to a breach of Mrs D’s human rights due to mainly DC Evans’ failure to report such matters because it could have had safeguarding implications in relation to the child concerned and places her at risk of significant harm. Notwithstanding this, Mr McConville made Gwent Police aware that their own Complaint Investigation Report recommended that there was learning for DC Evans and DC Treherne in respect of this disclosure made to them about the shaking of the baby and the need for the above processes to commence in order to safeguard the child along with the fact that DC Evans had reflected on her actions and now decided to leave the Force altogether and DC Treherne has received awareness and learning too. Mr McConville concluded such allegations stating that the said learning is paramount for any Officer in any Police Force when a situation like this presents itself not least here because the said estranged husband was allowed access to his daughter during an ongoing custody battle through the Family Courts until the said Complaint Investigation Report was used which allowed Mrs D to obtain full custody of her daughter. If DC Evans and DC Treherne had conducted their investigation properly, these privately paid custody proceedings would not have been needed to be endured by Mrs D too.
In response to Mrs D’s claim, Gwent Police’s ;legal team decided to deny any liability despite the above. Due to this, Mr McConville issued Court proceedings and told Gwent Police about this which sparked them to change their position and wish to settle Mrs D’s claim. Without her needing to serve her issued claim, Mrs D resolved her claim for an undisclosed sum plus her legal costs.