In January this year Coroner Bentley gave me access to all the coronial files relating to the murder of Doreen Langham by her ex-partner. I submitted a report and later gave evidence at the Coronial Inquest on 9 March 2022. I concluded, as did the Coroner, that Ms Langham’s experience of the QPS as a victim of domestic violence fell far short of minimal expectations of taking her seriously or responding in an effective timely manner, and that her death was preventable.
Over a period of two weeks, from 7 February 2021 to 21 February 2022, Ms Langham reported 5 breaches of the DVO to three different QPS police stations, two phone calls to PoliceLink, and two emergency calls to 000. Of the 16 or more QPS officers, from three different police stations, who either interacted or responded to her repeated and increasing desperate pleas for assistance, only one responded with appropriate skill and empathy, Desk Officer, Senior Constable Craig Jolly, Browns Police Station. On 15 February he took the breaches the of temporary DVO seriously, made a report of those breaches and acted promptly to protect Ms Langham, by arranging her locks be changed. This was an exception rather the rule of the QPS response to Ms Langham, which ranged from hostile, trivialising, to complete indifference for her safety. This illustrates that highly trained experienced QPS officers can and do respond appropriately to victims of DFV, but it’s a lottery. In sum, there was considerable variation in the police response to Ms Langham, as there was no single case manager, or single police station or team that took responsibility.
Not a single QPS police officer followed up Ms Langham’s vital evidence that Mr Hely had a history of serious DFV with a former partner, not only herself. This information was only discovered after Ms Langham was killed. There was a critical absence of case management and information sharing. Most of the QPS officers failed to deal with the perpetrator, respond promptly or at all to his breaches and missed many opportunities to prevent his plans to kill her. With one notable exception, the QPS officers misapplied the law, did not undertake effective risk assessment, seriously under-estimated the risk of lethal violence, and did not appear to comprehend the dynamics of coercive control and complexity of DFV. In short, they lacked the specialist knowledge to respond effectively to DFV and lethal risk, and were let down by systemic flaws in a singular law enforcement approach to DFV.
You can access the full Coronial Report here.
On 12 July 2022 ABC Investigative journalist Atkin presented a report about the systemic police failings in response to Doreen Langham’s pleas for help with her ex-partner. You can access this story by clicking the link below.