Death of four month old reveals ‘systematic issues’ about police understanding of domestic violence

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Death of four month old reveals ‘systematic issues’ about police understanding of domestic violence

Old Bailey: the central criminal court of England and Wales

An inquest into a four month old baby killed has found that Greater Manchester Police, Children’s Services and the Health Visiting Team all failed to assess the risk posed by his father. The coroner concluded that the police failed to assess Samuel Gildea, Alfie’s father, as a serious and serial abuse perpetrator and to ensure disclosure through the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as ‘Clare’s Law,’ to Alfie’s mother, Caitlin McMichael.

Clare’s Law has a ‘right to know’ function where the Police can proactively disclose information if they have reasonable grounds for believing that a perpetrator has used to threatened violence and the victim is at risk of future violent behavior. Samuel Gildea had 20 previous convictions; however, his mother was not aware of his previous six convictions involving domestic violence involving three previous partners. Caitlin McMichael said that ‘had such critical information regarding Samuel’s past been shared, Alfie could still be alive today’.

Selen Cavcav, a senior caseworker at INQUEST said that there was a ‘systemic issue around police’s understanding of domestic violence and the culture surrounding this’. Selen continued that ‘with a disturbing surge in domestic abuse across the country throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, such inadequate systems must be urgently addressed to prevent further harm.’

Ruth Bundey, of Harrison Bundey Solicitors who represents the mother, said was ‘unacceptable that it took Alfie’s death before the information of Samuels previous domestic abuse history was scrutinised by Greater Manchester Police’. ‘Crucial information was available to show that Caitlin was in a controlling and coercive relationship. This was not recognised or contextualised by GMP, Children’s Services or the Health Visitors Team, and had a proper risk assessment ensued, Alfie‘s death could probably have been prevented.’

When Alfie was two-months old, Samuel Gildea physically assaulted Caitlin and had attempted to strangle her two weeks before. Despite this, the Police categorised the situation as medium risk. Children’s Social Care and Health Visitors were also informed about these incidents; however, they did not investigate the issue in depth.