Two Metropolitan Police officers and one civilian police worker involved in the investigation into the murder of a woman by her partner in Tower Hamlets two years ago have been criticised for procedural failures in a report by the police complaints watchdog.
The report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the police actions surrounding the murder of Lucinda Port, 29, in Tower Hamlets in 2011 was released following the verdict by a jury at St Pancras Coroner’s Court last week that police errors were ‘a major contributing factor’ in her death.
The IPCC found one officer’s actions amount to gross misconduct, while another officer and member of staff have to answer to misconduct charges in their actions prior to the murder of Port, 29, and the subsequent death of her partner Mark Wright, 31. The Met said the member of staff has received a written warning, whilst both officers have been given “words of advice”.
On April 24, 2011, the body of 31-year-old Wright was found hanging from a tree after taking his own life in Weavers Field, Bethnal Green. Port’s body was found two days later at her home in Brymay Close, Bow, with multiple stab wounds. The failures of the two officers and member of staff meant that Wright, who had previously assaulted Port, was not wanted for breach of bail after visiting her home a week before the couple’s deaths.
Sarah Green, an IPCC commissioner said: “This investigation highlighted clear failures by the two officers and a police staff member. Although the officers responded promptly to calls to Lucinda Port’s address and made efforts to try and locate Mr Wright, their subsequent actions were inadequate.”
The IPCC’s findings were made in October 2011, but publication was put on hold awaiting the conclusion of the inquests into both deaths.
Police went to Port’s address on April 17, 2011, after receiving a call from her friend, who had become concerned for Port’s welfare after learning Wright was at her home.
When officers arrived, Wright had already left. A further 999 call was made an hour later and officers returned, but again Wright was no longer there.
The IPCC has found that a female officer who attended afterwards failed to submit her Evidence and Action Book (EAB) containing a statement from Port for the Community Safety Unit.
The EAB, along with other uncompleted EABs and three specialist domestic violence action books relating to other crimes, were found in the officer’s locker.
The IPCC said that the officer has a case to answer for gross misconduct.
The officer informed her male colleague, who also attended Port’s address that she had submitted her EAB.
The male officer then updated the Crime Recording Information System to show the EAB had been submitted. It was found he updated a closed CRIS report pertaining to the original assault, rather than opening a new one for the incident at Port’s home that he had attended.
A police member of staff who dealt with the CRIS report should have told the officer to open a new report or passed the information onto the officer investigating the original assault.
Both the officer and staff member’s actions are considered misconduct by the IPCC. During their investigation, they also found that officers were confused as to how they should have dealt with recording the incident.
Green said: “The failure of the female officer to submit an EAB, and the failure of the staff member to deal with the update on the CRIS meant Mr Wright was not circulated as wanted for breach of bail. We have made several learning recommendations to the MPS regarding incident recording and bail management.”
The Met said a group, chaired by the Met’s Commander for North East London, has been set up to consider these recommendations around “tightening up” some administrative procedures.
As a direct result of this case, the Met has also issued instructions that closed CRIS reports must never be reopened.
The Met said most of the suggestions have already been implemented and that they remain committed to “providing the best possible service to victims in these circumstances”. They also noted that the report did not suggest either death could have been prevented even if procedure was properly followed.
Tower Hamlets Community Safety Partnership has also commissioned an independent review to examine the circumstances and find out how various organisations could operate, both separately and together, to reduce domestic violence.