Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Improvements to how domestic abuse is investigated by Hertfordshire Constabulary made following the deaths of Lee Guntrip and Sarah Nash
Improved training, information sharing and policies on investigating domestic abuse allegationsare in place at Hertfordshire Constabulary following an IOPC investigation launched after the deaths of Sarah Nash and Lee Guntrip.
Mr Guntrip, 25, and Ms Nash, 37, were found dead at her home, in Berkhamsted, on 23 June 2016. Due to prior contact with Hertfordshire Constabulary a referral was made to the IOPC and an investigation was launched.
Our investigation, completed in November 2017, identified areas where improvement could be made to how the force handles allegations of domestic abuse.
We made seven learning recommendations, of which six were accepted.
The learning centered on improvements to the systems in place, and training of staff working within Hertfordshire Constabulary’s domestic abuse investigation and safeguarding unit (DAISU), to the sharing of information between the DAISU and custody and how risk assessments of domestic abuse victims are made and recorded.
They can be read in full here
We also concluded that three officers may have breached standards of professional behaviour and, following discussions with Hertfordshire Constabulary, it was agreed they would attend a misconduct meeting.
In May 2018 at the misconduct meeting it was ruled two officers had committed misconduct. One officer was given management advice and the other a written warning. The allegations against the third officer were found not proven by the chair.
IOPC regional director Sarah Green yesterday said:
“Investigating this tragic incident, we found evidence the police were aware of the abusive relationship, in which Ms Nash was a high risk victim.
“It became apparent that improvements could be made to how situations like this were handled by Hertfordshire Constabulary and I am pleased that the force has taken these on board and implemented them.
“We also concluded that three officers may have breached standards of professional behaviour and a panel later ruled that two of the police officers, tasked with investigating an allegation of attacks made by Ms Nash, failed to do so to an acceptable standard.
“Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that two women in the UK are murdered by a partner or ex-partner every week. Ensuring people who are in an abusive relationship have the confidence to seek police help, and then are afforded proper protection, is clearly a vital step towards reducing the number of terrible incidents such as the murder of Ms Nash.”
Our investigation found Hertfordshire Constabulary first became aware of domestic abuse against Ms Nash by Mr Guntrip on 21 August 2015.
Police were called after Mr Guntrip assaulted Ms Nash, and he was arrested and charged. He pleaded guilty to assault by battery and causing actual bodily harm and was sentenced to a community order with rehabilitation requirements in January 2016.
On 3 June 2016, Ms Nash reported further assaults to police. Mr Guntrip was arrested but, after spending time in custody, was bailed without charge on 4 June. He was bailed to return to the station on 22 June, and then was re-bailed on 22 June.
His bail conditions were to not contact Ms Nash, directly or indirectly, and not to enter her road. He was bailed to his home address, which was eight doors away from Ms Nash’s home.
Our investigation examined the actions by officers involved in the arrest, detention and investigation of Mr Guntrip, and the decision not to refer him to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision. We also examined the decision making by officers with regards to Mr Guntrip’s bail conditions.
Finally we examined the actions and decision making of officers when Mr Guntrip was re-bailed on 22 June, the day before the pair died, instead of being charged with any offence.
The two officers for whom misconduct was found proven were found to have breached standards in how they investigated the allegations made by Ms Nash, the breaches of bail conditions, and Mr Guntrip’s re-bail on 22 June.
The result of our investigation, completed in 2017, is being published now following the conclusion of an inquest into the deaths.
The full investigation report can be read here.
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