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Essex Police response to IPCC Chambers report

On August 22, 2012, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published the report of its investigation into the interactions between Essex Police and the Chambers family in the two years prior to the deaths of Christine Chambers and her daughter Shania in Braintree, Essex.

Assistant Chief Constable Maurice Mason said: "On behalf of everyone at Essex Police, I extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Christine and Shania Chambers, who were brutally murdered by David Oakes in the early hours of June 6, 2011.

"Essex Police accepts the findings of the IPCC report, and apologises for the failures identified there. Every police officer involved in the case of Christine and Shania is devastated by their passing. I too am devastated by their deaths. I became a police officer to protect the vulnerable, and to put criminals like Oakes behind bars.

"Essex Police is committed to working tirelessly to reduce the likelihood of tragedies such as this from occurring again.

"On that terrible night last summer, Oakes killed his former partner, Christine Chambers, and murdered his own 2-year-old daughter, Shania, with a shotgun.

"The unbelievable inhumanity of these murders led Oakes to be sentenced to two whole life prison terms – the most extreme punishment which the British judicial system can impose.

"You would think that a man capable of such horror would have a history of violence. Oakes did not: he had no convictions or cautions for violence.

"In fact, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has found that significant ‘information concerning Oakes’ violence towards Christine Chambers was not available to the police or social services’".

"The IPCC also stated that there was no information that Oakes had access to a firearm. Essex Police acts promptly and decisively whenever it receives credible intelligence about illegally held weapons.

"Domestic abuse is a crime which blights our society.

"Dealing with domestic abuse is often complex and challenging, and places significant demands on the police and other agencies.

"In the last year, Essex Police assessed and managed over 32,000 incidents of domestic abuse. This means that around 88 domestic abuse incidents are reported to the force every day of the year. On a typical day, around a quarter of all Essex Police resources may be involved in investigating, assessing and managing domestic abuse cases.

"It is right that the protection of the vulnerable is at the heart of British policing.

"In a striking statement, IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: ‘There was an over reliance on the information given by Ms Chambers and her assessment of the danger she faced.’

"Commissioner Cerfontyne continued: ‘Many women are reluctant to pursue criminal proceedings against abusive partners, sometimes even to seek help at all. Undoubtedly, this poses significant challenges for the police and other agencies, but it is essential in these situations that all possible is done to protect the victims.’

"Essex Police accepts the report of the IPCC and welcomes the recommendation that processes should be developed for better information sharing between police forces and agencies such as social services, courts and solicitors. This is particularly important in cases involving child custody proceedings, where allegations of domestic violence have not been reported to officers.

"It should be stressed that the IPCC investigation found that it is impossible to say with any certainty that, if the force had done things differently, Christine and Shania would be alive today. It also found no evidence of misconduct by any of our officers.

"Essex Police has conducted a meticulous review of our practices for managing and investigating domestic abuse cases.

"This review has led to an increase in staffing resources with 76 additional posts created in the force’s Public Protection teams, including a dedicated Domestic Abuse Intelligence Team. This team is responsible for providing specialist advice and for gathering all available intelligence to assist front line officers responding to domestic abuse incidents. The IPCC investigation clearly found that Essex Police has completed or put in place actions to strengthen its response to domestic abuse incidents.

"Most would say that a man who kills his former partner, and murders his own two-year-old daughter, has lost all humanity. Our courts have cast their judgement on Oakes. He will never leave prison.

"But the horror of the murders committed by Oakes stays with us all.

"As police forces, across the nation, we must do everything in our power to attempt to reduce the number of crimes such as this.

"Tragically, we will not be able to prevent every murder but we must strive to do so.

"We owe it to Christine and Shania to learn everything we can from this highly distressing case.

"We also want and need the help of every resident of Essex.

"If you know that your sister, neighbour, best friend, is a victim of domestic violence, tell us about it.

"If you learn that a man in the pub is boasting of illegally obtaining a firearm, Essex Police needs to know.

"This information is crucial to the force being able to make the most accurate possible assessment of risk, and to take effective steps to protect the vulnerable.

"Domestic violence is a crime which stains our society, and Essex Police is committed to taking robust action to bring those responsible to justice."


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