Family of murdered Chesterfield man calls for Derbyshire’s Chief Constable to resign after victims ‘let down’

Relatives of a Chesterfield pensioner who was brutally killed are calling for Derbyshire’s Chief Constable to resign – after she admitted officers have ‘let down’ murder victims and their families.

By Michael Broomhead
Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 4:48 pm

In a video message to staff last week, Rachel Swann said ‘simple errors are being made’ and that in some cases ‘we are not doing what we should’.

Ms Swann – who became the top boss of Derbyshire Constabulary last year – said the force was not performing well with ‘dealing with vulnerability’ and it was ‘not acceptable’.

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Top, Gracie Spinks and Graham Snell. Bottom, Martin Griffiths and Helen Hancock.

She called for ‘drastic changes’ in how the organisation operates and added: “Get it right first time.

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

Ms Swann’s comments come after the death of Gracie Spinks, from Chesterfield, in June.

Officers believe Ms Spinks was killed by a man she knew. She had made an allegation of stalking to the force in February.

Pictured are Mr Snell and Rachel Swann, Derbyshire Constabulary's Chief Constable.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is currently investigating contact between Derbyshire Constabulary and Ms Spinks before she passed away aged 23.

Helen Hancock and her partner Martin Griffiths were murdered in Duffield last year by her husband after she had split up with him.

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’.

Graham Snell, 71, was murdered and dismembered in Chesterfield in 2019.

After learning of Ms Swann’s comments to staff, Annamarie Ashton, Mr Snell’s niece, and her husband Steven told the Derbyshire Times: “We feel Rachel Swann should resign as Chief Constable and the force be placed into special measures.

“In our opinion, Derbyshire Constabulary is incompetent and totally untrustworthy.

“Too many people and their families have been let down by Derbyshire Constabulary – it's absolutely disgraceful.

“Since Graham died in 2019 after a series of missed opportunities by officers, it seems lessons have not been learned.

“The force that should be protecting people isn't fit for purpose and is clearly failing.

“We continue to be appalled by Derbyshire Constabulary.”

In response, a spokesperson for Derbyshire Constabulary said: “Our sympathies continue to be with the family and friends of Mr Snell following his death.

“As a force we have already accepted the learning recommendations borne out of the IOPC’s investigation into Graham’s death. Changes have been made to the force’s working practices and additional training of officers and staff has taken place.

“Officers and staff strive to provide a quality service consistently to our communities – and that includes understanding, identifying and addressing vulnerabilities.

“Chief Constable Rachel Swann has been clear that, as an organisation, we have let down victims such as Graham – and the campaign that is currently being run is helping ensure that victims receive the very best level of care.

“It is Chief Constable Swann’s role to lead the force and ensure that the organisation not only gets those critical decisions right – but also has the oversight and accountability if that does not happen and learns from those incidents where shortcomings are highlighted.

“Since taking over the leadership of the force in August 2020, one of the key priorities for Chief Constable Swann has been ensuring those most vulnerable victims get the very best level of service and she will continue to make sure this key area of business remains at the forefront of the organisation’s focus.”

Angelique Foster, Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “My thoughts are with the families and friends of everyone who has lost someone close to them in this way.

“The police’s role is to keep people safe and protect them from harm.

“This is the most important part of the job – it is what people expect and deserve.

“The Chief Constable has been very clear that she feels the force must make improvements in relation to the way in which it protects those most at risk.

“I strongly support that view – and I will keep a very close watch on progress made against the force’s improvement plans.”

Concerns over screensaver

According to a report by the BBC, when Derbyshire Constabulary staff logged on to their work computers last week, they saw a screensaver with the faces of Ms Spinks, Mrs Hancock, Mr Griffiths and Mr Snell, and a link to Ms Swann’s video.

According to the BBC, several officers complained about the use of victims’ images in the screensaver, with one saying this would bring back ‘horrific’ and ‘gruesome’ memories for their colleagues.

It is understood the screensaver has now been replaced.

Deputy Chief Constable Kate Meynell said: “Derbyshire Constabulary strives to provide a quality service consistently to our communities.

“Identifying and addressing vulnerability in policing has become increasingly complex and sometimes unpredictable.

“However, as an organisation it is crucial that we identify and share learning that arises from our investigations and engagement with the public to ensure our officers and staff are equipped to respond to the increasingly complex and dynamic nature of policing.

“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.

“As police officers and staff serving the county of Derbyshire it is important that we strive to provide a consistently good service and identify risk and vulnerability to ensure effective investigations and safeguarding is in place.”

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