Police apologise to dead woman’s kin after failure to respond to 999 call

Police apologise to dead woman's kin after failure to respond to 999 call

Warwickshire force admit ‘errors and omissions’ after 14-hour delay following up Luisa Mendes’ call

Warwickshire police car
An emergency operator for Warwickshire police tagged Mendes’s as a rowdy/nuisance issue, not as violence. Photograph: Mike Abbott/Alamy

Police chiefs have issued an apology and paid compensation of more than £20,000 to the family of a woman who was a victim of domestic violence and died following a violent attack.

Officers failed to respond to the 999 call of Luisa Mendes, who said she was being beaten by two men with whom she lived. When police did finally arrive, 14 hours later at her address in Leamington Spa, she was dead.

Warwickshire police agreed the payout to the family of the 44-year-old found dead in October 2012 the morning after police failed to respond to her emergency phone call.

In a letter of apology to her family, Warwickshire police acknowledge that errors were made in the case. Chief Constable Martin Jelley said in his apology that he was “truly sorry” about what happened and that he and his colleagues were reflecting on the “errors and omissions” of the police. He said that the police were determined, in future, to do things differently for some of the most vulnerable people.

No one was charged in relation to Mendes’ death, however a jury at her inquest unanimously concluded that on the balance of probabilities she had been assaulted and had died because of trauma caused by the assault.

Mendes moved to England from Portugal in the 1990s and led a happy life, running a successful business. She experienced difficulties following the breakdown of her long-term relationship and the collapse of her business and from then on developed alcohol dependency. She became unemployed and sporadically homeless.

In the months before she died she called the police on a number of occasions saying she had been hit and that she was being followed.

No one was charged in relation to Mendes’ death, however a jury at her inquest unanimously concluded that on the balance of probabilities she had been assaulted and had died because of trauma caused by the assault.

Mendes moved to England from Portugal in the 1990s and led a happy life, running a successful business. She experienced difficulties following the breakdown of her long-term relationship and the collapse of her business and from then on developed alcohol dependency. She became unemployed and sporadically homeless.

In the months before she died she called the police on a number of occasions saying she had been hit and that she was being followed.

On 24 October 2012, at 8pm, she made a 999 call where she was heard to scream and hang up. When the operator called back one of the two men she was with at the time answered the phone. Mendes lived with both of the men from time to time. Both men denied there was any problem but she confirmed she was being beaten and was heard in the background saying repeatedly “don’t beat me, don’t touch me”.

The emergency operator said that police would attend within the hour but categorised the call as a “rowdy/nuisance call” when it should have been classed as “violence”.

Police attended the address the next day at 10am. Mendes was found collapsed in the bathroom. Paramedics were called but she was pronounced dead.

The jury at the inquest into Mendes’ death concluded that there were police errors and omissions in the call categorisation, the handover procedures for the police controllers, the deferral of the 999 call, the police computer systems, and the supervision of the police staff. The jury concluded that these errors or omissions possibly caused or contributed to Mendes’ death.

Nancy Collins of Hodge, Jones & Allen solicitors, brought a claim against Warkwickshire constabulary based on the force’s failure to protect Mendes’ right to life under the Human Rights Act. The force admitted liability for the breaches of the Human Rights Act and settled the claim for £21,687.

Following an IPCC investigation, misconduct action was taken against four police officers.

Collins said: “Luisa was a vulnerable woman who was known to the police and had been a victim of domestic violence. The police had a duty to protect her and when she dialled 999 saying she was being beaten, help should have been sent immediately. Instead, the collective failures of police officers and employees meant that she was treated as a nuisance rather than a victim and help did not arrive until it was far too late. It is hoped that lessons will be learnt from Luisa’s death and that where there is a risk of domestic violence appropriate and timely support will be provided.”

A domestic violence homicide review identified five missed opportunities to support Mendes. A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularyidentified “alarming and unacceptable” weaknesses in the policing of domestic violence.

Vitor Mendes, the brother of Luisa, said: “My sister was vulnerable and deserved protection from the police, regardless of her difficulties. Whilst this settlement does little to compensate for our loss, four years on, I hope that Warwickshire police will be true to their word and review their systems and policies to ensure they protect people like Luisa in the future.”

Provided by: https://www.theguardian.com

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