Page last updated at 09:40 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 10:40 UK

Charity to sue over wife's murder

Sabina Akhtar
Sabina Akhtar was stabbed to death

A charity plans to sue a police force and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over claims they failed to protect a woman murdered by her violent husband.

Refuge claims Greater Manchester Police and the CPS breached human rights legislation over the death of Sabina Akhtar, 26, who was murdered in 2008.

Human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy said the action could become a test case.

Chief Constable Peter Fahy said it was the court system, and not police, which failed to protect victims.

Malik Mannan, 36, was found guilty of stabbing Sabina Akhtar, 26, to death at their home in Longsight, Manchester, in September 2008.

Ms Akhtar had contacted police two months before her death and alleged he had assaulted her and made threats to kill her.

Mannan was questioned and was then arrested again after breaching his bail conditions four days before he killed Ms Akhtar, but he was released and continued harassing her.

I believe the only way to change policy and practice is to hit them where it hurts in their wallets
Sandra Horley, Refuge

The CPS apologised to her family before he was sentenced, saying it had been "wrong" not to charge him earlier.

Her family said she would still be alive if Mannan had been charged, and they were also angry that when the killer was released without charge it took police four days to contact Ms Akhtar.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, told BBC Radio 4's The Report: "Under human rights legislation the authorities have a duty to protect persons and we believed in this case the police and CPS failed spectacularly and if they had handled it better she might still be alive today.

"I believe the only way to change policy and practice is to hit them where it hurts in their wallets," said Ms Horley.

Test case

And she added that if the case was successful it would have a dramatic effect on the police and CPS.

Refuge said it had approached Baroness Kennedy QC, a human rights barrister, to help it find a way of bringing a test case against GMP and the CPS for failing to protect Ms Akhtar.

Baroness Kennedy QC said cases had been brought in the USA over failures of police to take domestic violence seriously.

She said: "I'm not someone who would automatically reach for the law to solve policy problems.

"The police failure to act in domestic violence is something well known to us and in fact they have improved their game considerably but in some forces it is not good enough."

I don't think we got it wrong
Ch Con Peter Fahy, Greater Manchester Police

Ms Kennedy said the police needed to be confronted with their duty towards the victims of domestic violence.

GMP deals with about 68,000 cases of domestic violence each year and Mr Fahy said that, as well as investigations, his officers gave support to victims.

"But clearly, I can't have an officer with every victim 24 hours a day and that's the real difficulty of the system," Mr Fahy told BBC Radio Manchester.

"It's ironic that these particular people are talking about using the court system to try and sue us when it is actually that court system which fails to protect victims of domestic violence."

Mr Fahy described the Sabina Akhtar case as "absolutely tragic", but denied that his officers had failed her.

"I don't think we got it wrong," said the chief constable.

"We attended that address a number of times, we gave a lot of support to that victim, we provided an interpreter.

"It got to the stage when we put a file of evidence through to the CPS and they decided not to prosecute."

The CPS said it had not received any details of a civil action, but that it would respond should it happen.

"The Chief Crown Prosecutor, John Holt, has personally apologised to the family of Sabina Akhtar for the way the CPS handled an earlier case against Malik Mannan," a spokesman said.

The Report is broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Thursday 14 May at 2000 BST. You can also listen via the BBC iPlayer or download the podcast.

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