Stoke & Staffordshire

Justene Reece: Police failed to link stalking reports before death

Justene Reece Image copyright Staffordshire Police
Image caption Justene Reece took her own life as a "direct result" of Allen's actions

Police failed to link nearly half the reports of stalking about a woman's ex-partner before she killed herself.

Nicholas Allen was jailed for 10 years for the manslaughter of Justene Reece, who killed herself as a "direct result" of his controlling behaviour.

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found Staffordshire Police officers missed the "bigger picture" of his offending.

The force said it had improved its investigative approach to stalking.

Ms Reece, 46, from Stafford, hanged herself in February 2017, leaving a note saying "I've run out of fight".

The IOPC began its investigation a month later.

Between an initial report in September 2016 and Ms Reece's death, the IOPC found that, of 34 incidents reported by Ms Reece, her friends, family and other agencies, 16 were not cross-referenced with any previous reports.

It said seven of the 14 incidents reported by Ms Reece herself were not cross-checked at all.

Allen's trial heard he had a string of convictions for assault and harassment against other partners, and had sent Ms Reece abusive voicemails, texts and Facebook messages and stalked her.

His conviction was thought to be the first manslaughter case brought in such circumstances.

Image copyright Staffordshire Police
Image caption Nicholas Allen was jailed for 10 years in 2017

Ms Reece obtained a non-molestation order against Allen in November 2016, which he breached seven times, the IOPC said.

The police watchdog said that in December 2016, a now-retired senior officer chose not to arrest Allen for a reported breach of the order, because it was felt Ms Reece had been complicit by going with him to a pub after he turned up at the home where she was staying.

The IOPC said it was the responsibility of the offender and not the victim to ensure the orders were complied with, and so did not accept the officer's reasoning - finding it unsatisfactory.

Seven officers and one member of police staff will receive management action, as their performance was not judged to have met expected standards over the handling of calls and not completing risk assessments.

'Tragic death'

"It is evident from our investigation that there were potential opportunities for the police to engage more robustly with Mr Allen," IOPC regional director Derrick Campbell said.

"The bigger picture of the level of harassment and stalking being perpetrated was not properly seen by police."

In a statement, Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker apologised. The force has also accepted training recommendations to improve the linking of incidents and crimes.

"Since the tragic death of Justene we have made improvements to our safeguarding and investigative approach to stalking, but we have more work to do," Mr Baker said.

"We are committed to ensuring officers and staff understand stalking and its devastating impact so they can better respond to incidents reported to us."

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