Independent Police Complaints Commission
Offender management issues highlighted by investigation into police contact before Birmingham murders
Improvements to West Midlands Police offender management have incorporated recommendations from an IPCC investigation into police contact with Wesley Williams before he murdered Yvonne Walsh and her young son in Birmingham.
Wesley Williams was jailed for life in December 2013 after he admitted murdering Yvonne Walsh and her seven-month-old son Harry, who were found dead at their home in Chells Grove earlier that year on June 2.
Mr Williams had only recently been released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for wounding and was being managed under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), a mechanism designed to protect the public from sexual or violent offenders. As part of those arrangements actions were produced for West Midlands Police which included establishing Mr Williams’ whereabouts, who he was in a relationship with, and any associated safeguarding issues.
The IPCC’s independent investigation, which concluded in 2015, looked at how police officers in the offender management unit discharged their responsibilities under MAPPA, in particular after learning that Mr Williams was in a new relationship.
The force agreed that two officers who had responsibility for managing Mr Williams after his release from prison for a previous offence had a case to answer for gross misconduct over how they handled information about his relationship with Ms Walsh.
At a hearing held by West Midlands Police which concluded on Friday (November 24) the panel found that the facts proven against a police constable and a sergeant amounted to misconduct and not gross misconduct, in respect of their failure to contact or visit Ms Walsh and evaluate the risk to her and her children; and also for not informing social services about the relationship.
In addition, there was a misconduct finding against the Pc for not making adequate and/or prompt enquiries to establish Mr Williams’ whereabouts or establishing promptly the identity of his new partner; and failing to ensure the safeguarding of two ex-partners. The panel decided that the officers should face no further action.
In response to recommendations from the IPCC’s investigation report West Midlands Police agreed to look at training requirements for all staff as part of a restructure of its offender management, including training in risk assessment and risk analysis.
Other recommendations concerning the consistency of working practices and recording of information for violent offender management were accepted, although the force said learning had already been embedded within its Public Protection department since the murders.
IPCC Commissioner for the West Midlands, Derrick Campbell, said: “This was an extremely harrowing case involving the awful deaths of a mother and her young child. I would like to again express my sympathy to the family of Yvonne Walsh and hope the completion of our investigation answered some of their questions and brought some further measure of closure.
“How police handle violent offenders like Wesley Williams and vulnerable people is of the utmost importance. West Midlands Police recognised that the issues raised warranted an independent investigation to ensure public confidence, and fully co-operated with our enquiries.
“We are satisfied that our recommendations for organisational improvement either have been or are being addressed.”
While the IPCC’s investigation concluded in November 2015, publication of an investigation summary yesterday has awaited conclusion of misconduct proceedings run by the force. The deaths of Yvonne and Harry Walsh have also been the subject of a joint Domestic Homicide/Serious Case Review and MAPPA Serious Case Review, which has also been completed and is currently awaiting publication.
The IPCC's investigation summary can be found here.
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