Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Investigation identifies areas of learning for Sussex Police following the deaths of Michelle Savage and Heather Whitbread

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has made two learning recommendations to Sussex Police following our investigation into the force’s contact with Michelle and Craig Savage prior to her death.

Our independent investigation began in March 2018 after Michelle and her mother Heather Whitbread were fatally shot by Craig Savage at their home in St Leonards, Hastings.

We concluded our investigation in December last year when we identified two areas of learning for Sussex Police which the force has accepted.

We recommended that Sussex Police:

  • Consider whether the requirements of officers to complete a stalking screening risk assessment tool when a victim answers affirmatively to a question related to this in the Domestic Abuse Stalking and Honour based violence (DASH) risk assessment ought to be re-disseminated to all Sussex Police officers and staff.
  • Review their current and future DASH training programmes to ensure the requirements for completing DASH and Stalking-DASH by officers and staff are sufficiently covered within it.

Our investigation also found that one member of police staff, a call handler, had a case to answer for misconduct in relation to breaching standards in relation to instructions and also work and responsibilities.
The call handler did not complete a list of actions set out for them and failed to record the more recent allegations of harassment Michelle made.

The force agreed with our findings and agreed to hold a misconduct meeting at which the case was proven. The member of staff has received management advice.

Over the course of our investigation we examined the contact Michelle and Craig Savage had with Sussex Police between 26 February and 16 March 2018 and analysed Sussex Police’s policies and guidelines.

Our investigators have remained in contact with Michelle and Heather’s family throughout the investigation.

IOPC Regional Director Sarah Green, said:

“The senseless and tragic loss of Michelle and her mother Heather devastated their family and friends and my thoughts remain with all those affected by the events that evening.

“Although through this investigation we identified areas for Sussex Police to learn from, Craig Savage was responsible for killing Michelle and Heather.

“Tackling domestic abuse is not solely the responsibility of any single agency and it is not only the police who have a role to play in ensuring the safety of those who are abused.

“It is crucial that victims have confidence that, in coming forward, their allegations will be taken seriously and acted upon.

“I am pleased Sussex Police accepted the two areas of learning we identified regarding how domestic abuse investigations and training programmes are handled.”

On Monday we launched our ‘Make Yourself Heard’ campaign, during National Stalking Awareness Week, to raise awareness of a system to help people alert police when in imminent danger but unable to speak.

The Silent Solution system enables a 999 mobile caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted – to inform police they are in a genuine emergency.

The system is well-established in the UK but is only effective if the public know and understand how it works. It could, in extreme situations, potentially save a life. You can read more about our campaign here

Read our summary of the investigation into Sussex Police’s contact with Michelle Savage here

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