UK: Academic claims violence against black and minority-ethnic women not seen as serious crime
Justice in the eyes of those who were close to Sabina Akhtar will not be fully realised if lessons are not learned from this tragic case (CPS to apologise to family of woman murdered by abusive husband, 11 March). Those who handled the case at the CPS must be held accountable for failing to protect young women like Sabina. We need to understand why it was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge her husband who, after release from prison, breached his bail conditions and murdered his wife a few days later. A public inquiry is imperative and the Independent Police Complaints Commission should not procrastinate in ensuring the family get the answers they deserve. In the meantime, how many times do such cases of violence need to be reported to get a response?
This case shows that, despite repeated attacks from her husband (26 in all), violence against black and minority-ethnic women is not seen as a serious crime requiring a policy of deterrence and, concomitantly, harsh punishment for offenders. Despite the fact that there have been national guidelines introduced by the CPS in preventing violence against women, and also training for those who handle such cases, women are still being failed and the issue of victim credibility questioned. In other cases related to BME women, public confidence and trust in the system will not grow, and lessons not be learned, unless criminal justice agencies accept culpability when they make mistakes and act to rectify them. This is essential to bring real change in the efforts to save the lives of vulnerable women. In the case of Sabina Akhtar, it will come too late.
Dr Aisha Gill
12 March 2009
Malik Mannan, 36, was jailed for a minimum of 17 years at Manchester crown court today after fatally stabbing Sabina Akhtar.
The court heard that Akhtar, 26, reported her husband to police last year, telling them he had battered her 25 times and made threats on her life. On one occasion, in July, he told her to prepare for death by reading passages from the Qur'an, adding: "I am going to get a knife and when I return I am going to slaughter you."
He was arrested later that month and released on bail while police made further enquiries. His bail conditions included instructions not to contact his wife or visit her home, but he repeatedly breached the order and was re-arrested in September. He was released without charge and his bail conditions were dropped.
Later he texted his wife to say: "I am a free man since 1.30pm. Case file closed. Isn't it great." Mannan stabbed his wife through the heart at her home in Longsight, Manchester, a few days later.
The CPS said it would apologise to Akhtar's family about the way the case was handled. A spokeswoman said: "We accept that the wrong decision was made not to charge Mr Mannan at an earlier stage."
During the week-long trial, the court heard that the couple had an arranged marriage in Bangladesh in 2003. Akhtar joined her husband in England two years later, when she was pregnant with their son, who is now three.
She discovered he had a gambling problem and that he had a longstanding mistress with whom he had two young children. The jury heard that he would squeeze Akhtar's windpipe when they were arguing and made at least three threats to kill her. He assaulted his mistress in the same way.
Akhtar, fearing for her safety, had a security alarm fitted at her home. In her last known conversation, the day before she was killed, she told her aunt she was scared of her husband and what he might do to her.
Sentencing, Mr Justice Maddison said: "In her final days she was not only terrified of you but specifically terrified that she would die at your hands, as indeed she did."
Mannan made arrangements to flee to Bangladesh after the murder but was arrested by police the next day.
Outside court, Akhtar's uncle, Reaz Talukder, said the family was devastated. "Sabina was loved very dearly by all of her family members and friends. She was a brave woman and was devoted to her only son who is now under foster carers. We are now satisfied that justice has been done and the killer deserves the punishment for the crime he committed."
He said he believed his niece would be alive today if the CPS had taken action. "This was simply negligence," Talukder said.
6 March 2009
By: Matthew Taylor
Source: The Guardian