Domestic Violence: How Seriously Do Call-Handlers Take Warnings?
At the DAA, we were saddened to learn of the case of Karen Catherall. Karen 45, from Flintshire, was strangled by a man she met on the Plenty of Fish dating site, in September 2014. Before being fatally attacked, Karen made a 12-second silent call. The police did not respond. As a consequence, the public have learnt that dialling emergency services when afraid to speak does not necessarily lead to any kind of help or follow up. At the Dating Agency Association, we have been further alarmed by the passive response to calls for help even when a call-handler is supplied with vital information linked to domestic violence cases.
“We Don’t Act on What If’s“
It was almost midnight when a key member of our team took a call from a concerned family member. The family member had received a string of texts from her sister’s volatile and aggressive ex-partner. The texts stated that her sister had been ‘disrespectful’ and that the man was on his way to her home to confront her.
Attempts to contact the young woman at-risk were proving fruitless. Her mobile phone was switched off. This was highly unusual. With panic rising, the Dating Agency Association employee called ‘999’. She explained her concern for a young mother and child. The former partner’s history of emotional and physical aggression were detailed.
The call-handler responded by stating that the police do not operate on ‘What If’s‘. She suggested our colleague drive to the woman’s home and call ‘999’ again from her car if necessary. The call-handler did not ask for the name or address of the woman at risk. No attempt was made to log details or look up the man’s past.
“I felt patronised. Dismissed.”
“I felt patronised. Dismissed by the call-handler. I was happy to drive to the young woman’s home but what was frightening was the lack of urgency or support from the police. Not one single personal detail was logged.” our colleague explained.
The Way Forward?
A review of Karen Catharell’s case has highlighted the dangers of internet dating. The DAA welcomes moves to further educate single men and women in the risks associated with meeting strangers. However, we also feel that the way in which call-handlers respond to cries for help from those who can’t speak for themselves needs urgent review.