Police admit they 'could have performed better' before woman took her own life

Police chiefs have apologised and admitted they "could have performed better" in the case of a woman who took her own life after a dispute with neighbours.

Ms Dunn's home in Penkridge.
Ms Dunn's home in Penkridge.

Amanda Dunn, of Woodthern Close in Penkridge, made several calls to Staffordshire Police about issues she was having with her neighbours on her street.

Mrs Dunn took her own life on March 21 this year, an inquest heard. She had lived with her husband on the estate near the A449 for more than 30 years. She was said to have a history of mental illness.

Mr Haigh, in a report to the force, said police had not taken an ongoing problem Mrs Dunn had with neighbours "sufficiently seriously".

Now Staffordshire Police has issued an apology to Mrs Dunn's family for their response – and moved to reassure people they will do "all they can" to prevent it happening again.

Mr Haigh, in his report, said he had heard from family members and not requested evidence from police prior to the inquest due to not being aware of the "full extent of the concerns".

The coroner added: "I realise therefore that I have only heard one side of the story but there is a real concern that police are seeking to brush such incidents under the carpet and not taking them sufficiently seriously. Clearly, I do not want another death reported to me of a similar nature."

There was a dispute between neighbours.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Justin Bibby, of Staffordshire Police, said in response to Mr Haigh's Prevent Future Deaths notice: "Firstly, I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of Mrs Dunn. Staffordshire Police has carefully reviewed the full circumstances of her death and the circumstances leading up to it, and has responded to Mr Haigh to outline the chronology of events in the run up to her death.

"Before her death, Mrs Dunn contacted Staffordshire Police on two occasions over a two-year period to report anti-social behaviour by her neighbour. She also spoke directly to the local police team on another occasion, describing difficult relations with her neighbours. There were a further three occasions where Mrs Dunn’s name was mentioned in reports.

“It has highlighted a number of lessons whereby Staffordshire Police could have performed better and, a referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

“The lessons acknowledged, included the important role of the police to make and record referrals to partner agencies, including mental health services.

"Although this review has not identified any misconduct by Staffordshire Police officers or staff, it has highlighted a number of lessons whereby Staffordshire Police could have performed better.

"This includes the important role of the police to make and record referrals to partner agencies, including mental health services.

“In addition, Staffordshire Police did not respond effectively to an allegation of a criminal offence which was alleged to have taken place before Mrs Dunn’s death. There was a need to confirm, record and potentially investigate an allegation of assault by pushing and this did not take place. We have since launched a criminal investigation into any potential criminal offences committed against Amanda and her family.

"I would like to apologise to Mrs Dunn’s family for Staffordshire Police’s response and I would like to reassure them and the wider community that we will do all we can to prevent it happening again."

The conclusion of the inquest was death by suicide in a period when Mrs Dunn was suffering with anxiety and depression.

*If you have been affected by this article, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit Samaritans.org.

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