Derbyshire Police chief constable says staff failed murder victims

A chief constable has told her officers they have “let down” murder victims and their families.

Rachel Swann, who took charge of Derbyshire Police last year, said in a video message to staff that “simple errors” had been made.

She added the force was not performing well with “dealing with vulnerability” and it was “not acceptable”.

Some officers criticised the approach, which included using pictures of recent murder victims.

When staff logged on to their work computers this week, they were greeted by a screensaver featuring the faces of four people who died following contact with the force.

They included Gracie Spinks, a 23-year-old from Chesterfield who died in June along with Helen Hancock and her partner Martin Griffiths, who were murdered by her husband from whom she had split, in Duffield in 2020.

An image of Graham Snell, who was murdered and dismembered by his lodger in Chesterfield in 2019, was also used.

All of the above cases were sent to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which in the case of Mr Snell identified missed opportunities by officers regarding the victim’s safety.

While the watchdog concluded “no action could have been taken to prevent the deaths of Mrs Hancock and Mr Griffiths” and found no case for disciplinary proceedings, two officers received “words of advice” regarding the force’s “positive action policy and recording rationale behind decision-making”.

Above the screensaver photo was the word “vulnerability”, while underneath was the message “right first time” and at the bottom of the screensaver, a link to a video all staff were told they had to watch.

In the video, Ms Swann told her team “simple errors are being made” adding, in some cases, “we are not doing what we should”.

She called for “drastic changes” in how the force operates.

“Get it right first time,” she said.

“Because in the cases of those we have let down, they don’t get any second chances.”

Several comments were left underneath the video message by officers complaining about the use of victim images in the screensaver.

These included some who had attended murder scenes for these cases and post-mortem examinations.

One message said: “Having these images displayed on my computer every time I turn it on isn’t conducive to the wellbeing of those staff who had to deal with those horrendous scenes.”

Another staff member said they were worried being shown victims’ faces would be “extremely upsetting” and bring back “horrific” and “gruesome” memories for their colleagues.

The image has since been replaced.

Derbyshire’s Deputy Chief Constable Kate Meynell said: “Internally, we are currently running a specific week on identifying and addressing vulnerability.

“The objective of this week is to increase awareness and share learning to ensure that we continually improve our services to the public and make sure our staff and officers have access to the latest information and good practice.”

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