In the Media

Stabbing case may be police's first public discipline hearing

PUBLISHED January 5, 2007

Two police constables accused of misconduct after a mother of three was killed by her mentally ill former partner could be the first officers to face a public disciplinary hearing.

The Warwickshire officers face allegations of gross misconduct after investigations into the handling of the case of Collette Lynch, 34, who was stabbed to death by Percy Wright. 
Two days before Ms Lynch was killed, Wright came to her home in Rugby and screamed that he was going to cut her throat. He then smashed the front room window before leaving, promising that he would be back.

Wright was never arrested, although police visited him. The incident was not recorded as a crime.

On February 3, 2005, Wright stabbed his former partner on her doorstep and wounded her mother.

The case could become the first to be heard in public after the Independent Police Complaints Commission decided to use new powers to lift the usual secrecy around its hearings and order exceptional cases to be opened.

As The Times reported yesterday, the commission has a case under consideration and refused to identify it.

Police sources believe that the case is the death of Ms Lynch.

It would meet the criteria set out by Nick Hardwick, the chairman of the commission, who said that the case would involve allegations of gross misconduct, or the most serious neglect of duty. It would be a case where issues of public interest were not aired at an inquest or trial.

Wright pleaded guilty to manslaughter in August 2005 on the ground of diminished responsibility and was sent to a secure psychiatric unit for an indefinite period.

Mr Hardwick also pointed to the case in 2004 of the showjumper Tania Moore as an example of the sort of case that could be heard in public. She was shot dead by her former boyfriend Mark Dyche after police in Derbyshire failed to act on his threats. Six officers were later disciplined in private.

At the conclusion of the commission?s investigation into the Lynch case, John Crawley, a commissioner, said: ?Our investigation leaves one with an acute sense of a tragedy unfolding in slow motion.?

He said that Ms Lynch was subjected to a ?frightening incident of domestic violence? involving criminal damage to her home by her estranged partner.

There were failings in the local health system but the police performance was poor. While they attended the scene ?the police did not investigate the incident, or record or otherwise treat it as a crime or follow any of the requirements in the force?s domestic violence policy and other applicable policies?.

Wright was not arrested then or ?on a subsequent opportunity the following day when police visited him with mental health and child-protection officials, despite repeated reports that he carried knives and more than one report from the domestic violence incident that he had threatened to cut Colette?s throat?.

Mr Crawley said: ?Colette was grievously ill served by a succession of officers, staff and their supervisors who failed to ask questions, failed to listen properly, failed to make adequate records [a fundamental police professional discipline] and above all failed to follow policies in respect of the management of incidents of domestic violence and to take prescribed actions and ensure follow through thereafter.?

After the visit the force closed down the original incident on its system and took no further action.

Yesterday, Warwickshire Police said that a final date for the discipline hearings had yet to be decided and that the force was waiting for guidance from the commission.

It had not been told whether the Lynch case would be made public.