South Wales Police face criticism over hammer attack

Christopher Veal Police failed to recognise Christopher Veal as a registered sex offender

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South Wales Police is facing criticism for failing a woman whose partner attacked her with a claw hammer, despite warnings from the victim.

The attack on Charmaine Lewis came after she had been taken home by officers from a Cardiff police station.

Registered sex offender Christopher Veal broke down a door as soon as she arrived back - beating her savagely in front of her two children.

BBC Wales understands three complaints will be upheld by a police watchdog.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is due to publish its full findings on Wednesday.

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I want the police punished for what they've done”

End Quote Charmaine Lewis

Veal, who was already on licence from prison after being convicted of rape, was arrested and charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on Ms Lewis.

She sustained serious injuries, including broken ribs and lost teeth, and was hospitalised following the attack.

Veal hanged himself in Bristol Prison in November 2011, before he could stand trial.

The complaints considered by the IPCC concern Ms Lewis's interactions with police officers over a period of days in late August 2011.

Police officers initially failed to uncover Veal as a sex offender because call-handlers spelt his name incorrectly when Ms Lewis reported an earlier assault, which left her with strangulation marks around her neck and a black eye.

Only later did his identity and background come to light, but this information was not conveyed to officers who were dealing with his victim.

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It is clear that we did not provide the victim in this case and her children with the care and protection that she needed”

End Quote Matt Jukes Deputy Chief Constable, SWP

On 29 August 2011, after reporting that she felt threatened by Veal, Ms Lewis was driven home from Fairwater police station by officers to her flat where, a few minutes later, Veal broke in and violently attacked her with a claw hammer.

Failures

An officer is facing a disciplinary charge of gross misconduct for his role in the case and the IPCC has issued recommendations for South Wales Police.

The force has also been criticised for failing to mandatorily refer the case to the IPCC.

It was finally referred for investigation in December 2012, after the victim, who had moved to north Wales, sought help from Labour MP for Clwyd South, Susan Elan Jones.

Ms Lewis said: "The front door came crashing in… as I went into the hall he was there with a claw hammer.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is expected uphold three complaints about the way the force dealt with her case

"He hit me in the head… stamped on my body and broke my ribs. I was covered in blood - I woke up in hospital.

"He was a very high risk. I trusted the police… they should have kept us in the police station or waited until they had arrested him.

"I want the police punished for what they've done."

Susan Elan Jones said: "Charmaine doesn't want anyone else to go through this sort of dreadful experience that she's been through.

"I think key to that is looking at the training police and other professionals have in dealing with domestic violence. It's very important that these lessons are learnt."

Apology

South Wales Police's deputy chief constable, Matt Jukes, said: "It is clear that we did not provide the victim in this case and her children with the care and protection that she needed at a critical time and we are sincerely sorry for that.

"Over recent years we have worked incredibly hard to improve our response to incidents of domestic abuse and whilst this has come too late to support the victim in this case, we have good evidence that it is providing a much improved response to victims of domestic abuse now, helping to keep them safe."

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