IPCC issues findings from further investigation into death of Maria Stubbings in Essex
Essex Police missed a large number of opportunities to proactively safeguard Maria Stubbings and her son, and failed to monitor the escalating risk or to detain Marc Chivers before her murder at his hands in December 2008, a further investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found.
Despite having accurately recognised the risks and dangers in July that year in responding effectively to an assault on Maria by Chivers, already a convicted murderer, Essex Police then failed to undertake rigorous risk assessment and put safety measures in place on his release from prison two months before the murder.
The investigation has found a case to answer for misconduct against three police officers, but the failings of Essex Police at the time to protect Ms Stubbings and her son went far wider than the inaction of individual officers.
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “The actions taken by the officers in response to the assault in July demonstrate a sound understanding of domestic abuse and risk, and they were able to put in place a robust safety plan, even though there were no statutory restrictions or supervision of Chivers. The key issue is that the approach taken in July was not sustained; there was no continuity or consideration of ongoing risk.
“It is ironic that Ms Stubbings was offered the most support and protection while Chivers was in prison, when the risk from him was minimal. When he was released both she and her son were left completely vulnerable. All the risks that were there when Ms Stubbings called the police in July still existed after his release; indeed arguably the risk was even higher, as Chivers had just served several months in prison as a result of her complaint. Ms Stubbings was then murdered by Chivers and her son has endured profound and ongoing trauma as a result of his mother’s brutal death.
“Essex Police have made improvements in domestic abuse policies and procedures since 2008. It is also true that Chivers’ previous murder conviction outside the UK reduced the powers available to the police. However, in 2008 there were domestic abuse policies and procedures in place and specialist units. Knowing of Ms Stubbings’ vulnerability and the potentially serious risk posed by Chivers, Essex Police should have been far more proactive in order to try and ensure that Ms Stubbings was protected and her murder prevented.”
An opportunity for Essex Police to become aware of renewed contact between Ms Stubbings and Chivers was missed when a telephone call from a friend in early December attempting to report concern for Maria’s welfare was poorly dealt with.
The IPCC completed a first independent investigation into the death of Maria Stubbings in 2010 following a referral from Essex Police. Due to inaccuracies by the IPCC in the resulting report which subsequently came to light, IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne decided that there should be a second independent investigation. In addition, Ms Stubbings’ family considered that the scope of the original investigation had been inadequate, and it was decided to significantly increase the scope of the second to include the way the police dealt with Ms Stubbings’ report of Chivers’ assault in July 2008, and the actions they took while he was in prison and upon his release.
As a result of the second investigation the IPCC has made a number of recommendations to Essex Police who need to ensure that:
• all officers dealing with domestic abuse incidents are aware of the need to consider the physical and emotional wellbeing of any children associated with the household;
• officers dealing with crimes complete thorough intelligence checks to ensure that suspects are traced expeditiously, and there are now processes in place to deal with individuals who are considered potentially dangerous;
• officers and force information room staff are fully aware of the need to deal with reports of domestic abuse promptly and to take positive action in respect of named suspects;
• its recent improvements in the area of domestic abuse have been fully understood by all officers and that front line officers have received appropriate training.
The IPCC has shared its investigation report with Ms Stubbings’ family and Essex Police. Both IPCC Chair, Dame Anne Owers, and Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne have met the family to discuss their concerns and express regret about the shortcomings of the first IPCC investigation.
Notes to Editors
1. In December 2008, Maria Stubbings was murdered by Marc Chivers, a man with whom she had been in a brief relationship with earlier in the year. In January 2008 Marc Chivers had been released from prison in Germany having completed a sentence for the murder of a girlfriend and following his release, he travelled to England. He was not placed under any restrictions on his arrival in the UK.
2. At the time of her murder, Ms Stubbings was living in Chelmsford with her 15 year old son. Ms Stubbings first made contact with Essex Police in relation to Marc Chivers in April 2008, regarding a potential theft and on 16 July 2008 Ms Stubbings reported to Essex Police that she had been assaulted by Chivers. He appeared in court and was remanded in custody. He eventually pleaded guilty to common assault and was released on 13 October 2008. On 11 December 2008 Ms Stubbings reported to Essex Police that Chivers had burgled her home, taking her medication.
3. Over the next few days there was some police contact with Ms Stubbings and on 19 December, police visited her home and found her body. Chivers was in the home at the time, and was subsequently convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at Chelmsford Crown Court on 14 December 2009.
4. On 7 December 2010 the IPCC published its findings from its first investigation into contact between Essex Police and Maria Stubbings prior to her murder.
5. The IPCC’s full investigation report from the second investigation can be found in the publications section of the website.
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