Thursday, December 04, 2008

Promotion for rough British cop who ignored crime victim

A police officer [above] whose blunders were criticised after Britain's most notorious "honour" killing has escaped punishment after the collapse of disciplinary proceedings against her. When a bleeding and distressed Banaz Mahmod told PC Angela Cornes that her father had just tried to murder her, the officer dismissed her as a melodramatic drunk. Instead of investigating the young woman's allegations, she wanted to charge her with criminal damage for breaking a window during her escape.

Three weeks later, Miss Mahmod, 20, was raped, tortured and strangled at her South London home. Her body was put in a suitcase and buried in the garden of a house in Birmingham.

PC Cornes had been due to face a disciplinary hearing last month after a lengthy investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The Times has discovered that all charges against her have been dropped. Instead of dismissal, she is in line to be promoted to sergeant and given a backdated pay rise. Miss Mahmod's murder - punishment for falling in love with the wrong man - was orchestrated by her father and an uncle, Iraqi Kurds, now serving life after an Old Bailey trial in June last year.

The IPCC investigated after the trial had ended. The victim had told police four times, between December 2005 and January 2006, that her family wanted her dead and had given them a list naming the men likely to carry out the murder. She even gave evidence to the jury from beyond the grave, in a video recording made from her hospital bed on the day she first met PC Cornes.

Last April, the police watchdog announced that two officers, PC Cornes and her supervising inspector, would be ordered to appear before a disciplinary panel "to explain their actions". Both faced the threat of dismissal for conduct which "fell below the required standard". Officers were said to have displayed "insensitivity and a lack of understanding".

In April, Nicola Williams, an IPCC commissioner, said that Miss Mahmod "lost her life in terrible circumstances". She had been "let down by the service she received" from the police and it was "entirely appropriate for two officers to face a disciplinary panel". The hearing was scheduled for November 17 but all charges against the pair were withdrawn because of "insufficient evidence". Parties involved were told on November 14. No public announcement was made.

Instead of disciplinary proceedings, The Times can reveal that PC Cornes is to receive "words of advice", the lowest sanction - less severe than a written warning - that can be given to a serving police officer. She is due for a pay rise after being selected for promotion to sergeant, a rise through the ranks which was delayed pending the findings of the disciplinary panel.

The Metropolitan Police's professional standards department was responsible for organising the hearing, which would have relied on evidence compiled by the IPCC. It is understood that the force initially accepted the IPCC's recommendation to bring disciplinary proceedings but changed its stance after discovering flaws in the commission's evidence. The Timeshas been told that some witnesses were not even interviewed by the IPCC team. The investigation was not conducted from the IPCC offices in London but by a regional team based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Three days before the hearing date, the Met told the IPCC that there was insufficient evidence and it was proposing to drop all action against the two officers. The IPCC had the power to order the hearing to go ahead, but instead chose to accept the Met's advice.

Contacted by The Times on Friday, an IPCC spokesman initially said that no final decision had been taken over proceedings. However, the commission later confirmed that no action would be taken against the officers. Naseem Malik, an IPCC commissioner, blamed the decision on the refusal of a key witness, believed to be Miss Mahmod's boyfriend, who is in a witness protection programme, to give evidence at the hearing.The officers' failings had "warranted a full disciplinary hearing" and it was "deeply disappointing that the discipline process cannot be fully completed". A Met spokesman confirmed PC Cornes would not face a disciplinary hearing and has been "temporarily promoted to the rank of sergeant".

Campaigners against forced marriage were outraged by the decision and said that the failure to hold officers to account would make it even harder for vulnerable women to trust the police. Jasvinder Sanghera runs the Karma Nirvana charity, whose helpline for victims of "honour"-related violence has received 2,200 calls since its launch in February. She was "shocked and horrified" by the collapse of disciplinary action and said that Miss Mahmod "might have been alive today if the police had been willing to believe a terrified young woman". "There is no justice here for Banaz," she said. "She was raped and murdered because her family believed she had brought shame upon them. "We often meet victims whose perception of the threat they face is not believed by the police. They are told to go away and come back with evidence. This has to change."

Diana Nammi, of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, which ran a Justice for Banaz campaign, said the withdrawal of charges was a disgrace. "This has shattered my confidence in the IPCC," she said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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