Q. When is a murder not a murder?
A. When it is not recorded as such.
I am currently working with three families who have suffered the loss of a daughter in circumstances which raised their suspicion about the cause of death.
In all three cases the only person present at the time of death was the partner.
In all three cases there was high risk domestic abuse.
In all three cases there were arguments put forward by professionals explaining why a charge of homicide could not be pursued – or would not be pursued.
I cannot discuss here what those apparently complex arguments are, but what I can say is that there has been, in every case, an impenetrable wall of professional condescension towards the concerns of the families. It’s not lack of legislation, or the wording of particular laws, or even that the evidence does not exist. It’s far more fundamental.
Some professionals aren’t listening.
We are experiencing this with a number of different professionals, including pathologists, barristers, police investigators and coroner’s officers. In one of the cases, it has been established that the police were absolutely wrong not to listen – this has been formally acknowledged and they are re-investigating – but years on, with a catastrophic loss of evidence.
In another of the cases, the police investigators are doing all they can to limit the damage created by a coroner’s officer who would not listen, causing another catastrophic loss of evidence.
In one case, the pathologist created a situation which has made the job of investigators almost impossible, and refused to listen even to their own peers.
In some cases barristers compound problems because they don’t always understand the context of the death, and will not consider expanding their knowledge. All these cases include a failure to listen and failure to respond to challenge with some humility.
I am not talking about unfounded suspicions or fanciful allegations, and I don’t suggest we need new legislation or a radical change in process. I ask that professionals are open to listening. Please listen. Consider that with investigative imagination the evidence can sometimes be revealed, but not if we fail to consider that someone else might just have an alternative position to our own. Listening at the beginning can save an awful lot of trauma and recrimination later on.
No more Theodore Johnsons.