The Domestic Homicide Review into Alice’s murder has been released and is available on the Gateshead Community Safety Board website.
The primary aim of a Domestic Homicide Review is to identify lessons that need to be learned in order to help prevent a similar incident from happening again in the future. Most are anonymised but the significant press and TV coverage would have rendered it pointless in this case, so the report uses Alice’s real name.
Alice’s DHR recounts her story in detail, piecing together a chronological narrative from the testimonies of Alice’s family, friends, and work colleagues, input from the various professional agencies involved, and information gleaned from some of the media documentaries (which, for example, showed footage of police interviews with the perpetrator).
The Review examines the actions of various agencies, and particularly the police and army, coming up with 32 key findings that include the following:
-  The 101 non-emergency number was a barrier to reporting at an earlier opportunity;
-  Northumbria Police did not identify or record stalking behaviour despite evidence of a ’course of conduct’ ;
-  Victims need as much protection as possible when reporting stalking;
-  The perpetrator should not have been dealt with by a Police Information Notice;
-  The decision-making process by Northumbria Police was too ’victim-led’;
-  There was no contact between Home Office Police and the Military Police in relation to the perpetrator’s behaviour;
-  The army failed to record concerns about the perpetrator’s behaviour on several occasions;
-  There is a lack of understanding about measures the army can take to manage the perpetrator’s behaviours ;
-  There is no National Stalking Register and therefore there is no way to track perpetrators of stalking; and
-  The public are generally unaware of stalking behaviours and associated risks.
The DHR concludes with twenty recommendations aimed at national, regional and local bodies. In their foreword to the review, Alice’s parents Clive and Sue express their support for all these recommendations, feeling that they help to address some of the key issues that they believe would have made a difference in Alice’s case. Among the recommendations are:
- (5) Home Office to review the effectiveness of 101 single non-emergency contact number and implement measures to reduce call waiting times and abandoned calls;
- (18) Home Office to consider initiating a review into the effectiveness of the DASH Risk Indicator Checklists in relation to stalking;
- (9) Home Office to work with telecommunication providers and national stalking abuse experts to review measures and advice to reduce harm from digitally-assisted stalking;
- (4) Home Office to consider the creation of a specific criminal offence in relation to threat of posting intimate images without consent;
- (2) Ministry of Defence and Home Office to agree a national policy to formalise future interactions between Home Office and Military Police in relation to domestic abuse;
- (7) Ministry of Defence to review its Domestic Abuse Policy with specific reference to domestic abuse in a non-service relationship context; and
- (3) Ministry of Defence to implement routine, meaningful and accessible recording of all domestic abuse allegations that are made against service personnel.
Alice’s family have issued the following statement:
“Alice died in tragic circumstances and it is important to us that her story is not forgotten. It is equally important that failings are acknowledged, lessons learned, and improvements made so that if similar situations arise in the future they may have better outcomes.
“We are heartened by the attention to detail in this report and the range of recommendations it makes. We are also encouraged that in the two and half years since Alice's murder many of the issues raised are already being addressed: for example, many police forces have stopped using PINs, and have begun to train specialists and front-line officers in recognising and dealing with stalking cases.
“We hope that the Army will now realise that they have an important part to play when one of their soldiers is accused of criminal behaviour against a civilian and, like other agencies, will proceed to learn lessons from Alice's case.”
Working for the future
We need improved procedures to recognise the various sequences of events that constitute stalking, to deal with them robustly through the criminal justice system, and to manage the risks as effectively as possible using multi-agency approaches. Many of the agencies involved in Alce’s DHR—including the Home Office, police, CPS, judiciary, probation service, and British Forces Germany—have already taken action and have involved the Alice Ruggles Trust in their training and CPD programmes.
There is much work still to be done and the Trust is committed to working further with all of these agencies—and also, we hope, with the British Army, in the future.
Perhaps most important of all, and therefore the long-term aim of the Trust, is to raise public awareness, particularly among young people, of the seriousness and dangers of coercive control and stalking.
Sue and Clive discuss the DHR on BBC Breakfast the morning after its publication