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Authority finds failings in Police response to Northland domestic violence complaint

19 December 2013 - The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released its report on the Police response to complaints made by Ashlee Edwards in May 2012 prior to her death on 27 July 2012.

The Authority’s investigation found that the Police response to Ms Edwards’ complaints relating to  protection order breaches by her former partner Jimmy Akuhata, were poorly managed and grossly inadequate.

In 2010 Ms Edwards was granted a Protection Order against Mr Akuhata. On 22 and 26 May 2012 Ms Edwards laid complaints with Whangarei Police alleging two separate breaches of that Protection Order; the first was reported to Whangarei Police and the second to the Police Northern Communications Centre. In conducting its investigation the Authority found the breaches were dealt with independently of one another and that the officer dealing with the second complaint was unaware of the first.

On 27 July 2012, Ms Edwards was killed in Whangarei and Mr Akuhata has been charged with her murder.

In releasing the report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said both complaints included sufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Akuhata under the Domestic Violence Act 1995, but on both occasions Mr Akuhata was released without charge.

“The Authority’s investigation also found that there was a failure amongst all of the Police involved in this case to take proper ownership of Ms Edwards’ first complaint and to appreciate the urgency and significance of the situation.

“The need for immediate action to be taken in this case was emphasised by Ms Edwards and support agencies, but various shortcomings within Northland District meant this was not recognised and ultimately, this undermined people’s safety,” Sir David said.

“Since this time, however, the Authority notes and endorses the actions taken to improve the Police response to family violence incidents in the Northland District, including the undertaking of a District-wide quality assurance review of family violence policy and practice, the appointment of a District Victim Manager, the introduction of a tasking system for files where an offender is still outstanding and ensuring the transfer of files from one area to another is tasked effectively.

“The Authority also supports the establishment of a District Command Centre which will further enable a timely response to family violence incidents, and the establishment of a Whangarei Area Prevention Team whose duties include reducing victimisation and actively preventing family violence,” Sir David said.

 

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