Probation Service Review Highlights Serious Flaws
Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie were let down by a system that should have protected them. Instead, the Probation Service granted free reign to an extremely dangerous man, enabling him to commit horrific crimes because vital checks were repeatedly not carried out.
At Women’s Aid we know that this is all too often the case – dangerous perpetrators are allowed access to children despite repeated warnings of the risks.
Both the criminal and family courts, and all agencies working within them, need ongoing and robust training on domestic abuse delivered by specialists such as Women’s Aid. These shocking murders must be an urgent wake up call to the probation service and other agencies to overhaul their response to survivors now.
The HM Probation review has highlighted serious flaws in how they view dangerous serial offenders, and how blatantly they disregarded the very real risks posed to Terri and her children, despite repeated concerns raised by Damien Bendall’s ex-partner and others. Too many opportunities were missed by untrained and inexperienced staff who were left to manage a serious perpetrator who had shown time and again that he was a risk to women and children. Terri, Lacey, John Paul and Connie were let down by a system that should have protected them and instead it enabled a very dangerous man to commit the most horrific crimes because robust risk and safety processes weren’t in place.
The safety of Terri and her children was never properly assessed, despite significant information and intelligence being available to the court and probation services.
As the HM Probation review finds, there continue to be deep concerns about the quality of probation practice in relation to the assessment and management of perpetrators of domestic abuse, and the lack of experience and knowledge that probation officers have in this area. At Women’s Aid we know that this is all too often the case – dangerous perpetrators are allowed access to children despite repeated warnings of the risks.
We must now have meaningful guarantees that this will never be allowed to happen again. We need a whole-society approach to embrace zero tolerance to domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse must be a priority across the entire justice sector – from the family courts where children are repeatedly let down by a system that favours an abuser, to police forces to ensure that women receive the right response first time. Both the criminal and family courts, and all agencies working within them, need ongoing and robust training on domestic abuse delivered by specialists such as Women’s Aid. The horrific murders of Terri, John, Lacey and Connie must be an urgent wake up call to the probation service and other agencies to overhaul their response to survivors now.
The Chief Inspector in his statement speaks of how he has raised repeated concerns and concludes that ‘this time’ lessons are learnt. Changes must be implemented.
This must be led by the government and whilst we recognise that improvements have been made, there is still a long way to go.
It is important to recognise that what happened to Terri, John Paul, Lacey and Connie (and all of the other women and children) was a consequence of an epidemic of male violence, the structural causes of which need to be addressed across society more broadly.
This includes within the police forces, health systems, judiciary, local government and all statutory services ranging from schools to healthcare, the police to transport, business, housing and many more.
The government must act now to ensure a whole-system response to tackling violence against women and girls, which includes investing in training for key statutory services – ranging from the Justice system to the Probation service, from schools to healthcare, police forces to transport, and across business, housing and many many more.
Only then can we can look forward to effective changes in attitudes, responses and outcomes for women and children.