Two Hertfordshire police officers have been found guilty of gross misconduct following an investigation into contact the officers had with a Watford woman prior to her being stabbed.
Gross misconduct allegations were proven against them today (6 November) following a disciplinary hearing, led by an independent legally qualified chair. The disciplinary comes after an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into the officers.
The investigation looked into the actions of Hertfordshire police officers following a report made by the woman in August 2021 that her ex-husband had breached a non-molestation order after she saw him on doorbell footage standing outside her home.
The man had been convicted of domestic abuse offences against the woman in 2020 and a non-molestation order was granted in October that year. In January 2021, the man was arrested, charged and fined for breaching the order.
Following the further breach incident in August, the woman attended Watford Police Station and showed PCs Van Der Linden and Coleman doorbell footage. The officers spoke to the man on the phone and reminded him of the conditions of the non-molestation order. The man was not arrested and no further action was taken against him. The following month the woman suffered serious injuries after she was stabbed several times by him.
The investigation concluded in September 2022 and it was found that PCs Coleman and Van Der Linden should face a gross misconduct hearing for failing to obtain evidence of the offence, accurately record information from the victim or complete an appropriate risk assessment with the woman. We also determined that the two officers failed to safeguard the victim and her family and relay accurate information to their case supervisor.
The panel determined that the officers breached the standards of professional behaviour relating to duties and responsibilities, orders and instructions and honesty and integrity.
IOPC regional director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Our investigation found that former PC Coleman and PC Van Der Linden failed to properly investigate the breach of a non-molestation order in August, despite a pattern of concerning behaviour by the woman’s ex-husband.
“No further action was taken against the man and just weeks later the woman was the victim of an extremely violent attack which resulted in her suffering serious injuries.
“It’s possible the attack could have been avoided if the officers had properly investigated the breach and carried out an appropriate risk assessment with the woman. Failing to adequately investigate domestic abuse can have catastrophic consequences for victims and it’s vital that reports made to police are investigated thoroughly.
“The two officers’ actions damaged public confidence in reporting incidents of this kind. They have now been held accountable for their actions and will be placed on the barred list, meaning they cannot be employed in policing in the future.”
The investigation also found performance issues for a third officer – a police sergeant – in relation to the quality of the supervision provided. It was determined that the officer should undergo the reflective practice review process.