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The homicide review into the deaths of Julia and William Pemberton begins this week, Jan 07

In the Media

Further info at 

The homicide review into the deaths of Julia and William Pemberton begins this week.
On 18 November 2003, following more than a year-long campaign of threats and abuse against his estranged wife, Alan Pemberton arrived at his former home in Newbury, Berkshire, and shot and killed his 17 year old son, his wife and then himself.  These homicides took place despite repeated warnings by Julia Pemberton to the police that Alan Pemberton was a threat to her and their children. 
The Homicide Review into the events, which led to their deaths, is the result of a campaign by Julia and William’s family who have been working with Refuge and others to research homicide review best practice. The family didn’t feel they were making any progress with the police following the inquest and so pursued a Homicide Review. Baroness Scotland QC MP offered the family this Review in the spring of 2005 (Section 9 – not yet law - DV Act 2004). 
Julia and William’s family have called for a full, open, honest and thorough homicide review, which will assess independently what went wrong in this case, and put measures in place to ensure mistakes are not repeated.  However, the family feels it has been saddled with a review that does not meet their expectations. The family will use its best endeavours to ensure what comes out of this review is of value.
Frank Mullane, Julia’s brother said: “A bereaved family should not have to push so hard to ensure a review takes place. Public bodies owe it to us to have in place systems that ensure failure is checked. We are confident that without our pushing, no review would have taken place.”


The family are flagging up serious issues of concern, which they believe may put women experiencing domestic violence at further risk.
·Thames Valley Police withheld vital evidence from an inquest in September 2004. 
·Coroner: The family feels that the coroner lacked an understanding of the expectations of police responses to the reporting of domestic violence. 
·Closed review: The Review is to be held in private. Even the IPCC is reviewing its approach in terms of disciplinary proceedings which to date have been held in private.
·Serious Case Review model (children and young person deaths): The Review has been constrained from the outset by using the existing Serious Case Review model (children and young person deaths). The family believe that domestic violence homicides are far too idiosyncratic and complex to use existing models and require a fresh approach.
·Homicide Review Consultation: The Review commissioners have failed to take into account guidance outside of the Home Office, failing to consider consultation on Homicide Reviews including that submitted by the police body, Centrex.
·Family Involvement: the potential for family involvement has also been undervalued. The family has requested an explanation for the view that their involvement in the review is inappropriate as they feel they are very likely to hold critical information that either contextualises events or may indeed contradict agency versions.

Mullane explains: “The current proposals for how the review will take place relegate the family to mere witnesses.  We are not being given the opportunity to challenge any findings as they are discussed.  If the review is to be truly 'victim-centred' then it must begin from the reality of my sister’s life, living with domestic violence. This encompassed more than agency contacts. Although there is provision for my family’s separate input, it is seen as inadequate for each agency to contribute separately.”
The family are unclear why they are to be excluded from mapping the complex ways in which interventions interacted. They are concerned that it will be impossible to understand the compromises abused women are facing if reviews are not carried out holistically.
For more information please contact:       Frank Mullane: 07789 350837
Notes to Editor:
1.                               The Review begins week beginning 29 January 2007 and will last approximately four months and culminate with a report and action plan in May 2007.
2.                               61% of female homicides are murdered by a current or former partner (British Crime Survey January 2007). 
3.                               Every week two women are killed at the hands of their current or former partner (Homicide Statistics 1998)
4.                              The DV Act 2004 introduced Homicide Reviews. These are covered in Section 9, which is not yet law.
5.                               The main areas of concern in the case are as follows:
·       Police Domestic Violence Policies: Successive Chief Constables of Thames Valley Police failed to follow Home Guidance requiring all forces to have domestic violence policies in place. The force ignored serious death threats, failed to investigate the reporting of repeated threats, failed to investigate the gluing of the locks to the house where Julia and Will lived and failed to investigate further written threats, placing the evidence on a closed crime file in the police archives.
·       Firearms policy: Frank Mullane, believes that Thames Valley Police’s firearms policy must be scrutinised in the review.  He said: “On the night of the murders, my sister Julia was assured that officers were “on their way now.”  This was not true. Having promised an immediate response, Thames Valley Police engaged their feckless firearms policy that meant a deliberately delayed response.”  At least two senior officers have indicated that this policy was about no officers talking any risks, but the victim is told differently.  Mullane continues: “Of course Julia believed that remaining hidden was the best course of action.  Yet the Police Command and Control log records “No units to attend” whilst Julia is given the opposite information. It is unfathomable that the organisation you call to help save your life has in place a policy that is instrumental in ensuring you lose it.”
The same firearms policy, which was about preparation rather than response, was engaged again at Highmoor Cross (barbecue murders) seven months later.
·       Call handler: The family has no issue with the call handler who they believe was placed in a horrific position. When Julia called 999, her only options were to run or hide. She had been told to keep hidden; that officers were on the way and that they were actually trying to approach carefully.