The hearing of a judicial review brought by the parents of a woman murdered by a double killer is to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice on 24 and 25 March 2020.
The parents of Susan Nicholson are challenging the refusal by the Coroner for West Sussex to hold a full inquest into her death, which would probe police failings. They were granted permission to bring the judicial review in November 2019, and now the case has been set for a two day hearing this month.
Susan Nicholson was murdered in 2011 by her partner Robert Trigg. Her family want to know whether Sussex Police could have prevented her death, had they properly investigated the death of another of Trigg’s partners, Caroline Devlin, and had they responded better to reports of violence that Trigg was showing to Susan in the weeks before her death. They argue that they are entitled to a full inquest, which would look into these issues, under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life. They hope that a full inquest will mean that victims of domestic violence are better protected by police in the future.
Sussex Police initially said they were neutral on the issue but have now argued to the court that the judicial review should be dismissed. They have also indicated that they will claim their legal costs from Susan’s parents if the legal challenge is unsuccessful. This bill so far is over £6,000.
Robert Trigg himself has also joined in. He has written to the court arguing that the new inquest should look again at whether he was responsible for Susan’s death, even though he has already been convicted of her murder. His intervention is an obvious attempt to undo his conviction.
This means that if they lose the challenge Susan’s parents could face a bill for the legal costs not only of Sussex Police, but also coroner, and even Robert Trigg.
Susan’s parents have tried to raise money for the challenge with the support of crowdfunding. They have so far raised over £4,000 but the police costs are already significantly higher than this. The page can be viewed at www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-susan.
The police had been called to Susan’s flat at least three times in the weeks before her death following reports of violence. Sussex Police were aware that Trigg had a long history of violence against women, causing one former partner to be hospitalised after he brutally assaulted her. They were also aware that Trigg’s former partner Caroline Devlin had died in bed with him five years before, but they did not consider her death suspicious. Trigg was convicted of the murder of Susan and the manslaughter of Caroline in July 2017, after six years of fighting by Susan’s parents. Trigg is serving a 25 year sentence for the deaths.
Susan’s father Peter said: “I see this hearing as an opportunity to make sure that there is a proper inquiry into whether Susan’s death could have been prevented. Sussex Police had all the information about Trigg’s history of violence against Susan and other women. They knew that Caroline had died while in bed with him. Even after Susan’s neighbour called the police and they found Susan with injuries to her face, they didn’t see that he was a danger to her. We want to ask the officers what they did to protect Susan, and we had hoped that Sussex Police would want their officers to be alert to the dangers faced by victims of domestic violence and protecting them properly. We are hurt and disappointed that they have chosen to fight our challenge instead, and that they want us to pay their legal costs if we lose.”
Alice Hardy, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, who is representing the family, said: “This hearing is an opportunity for Susan’s parents to secure a full inquest to examine whether Sussex Police failed Susan, which could help Sussex Police to learn from their mistakes and ensure that they are better equipped to protect victims of domestic violence in future. It is hugely disappointing that Sussex Police appear determined to fight it, and to threaten Susan’s elderly parents with a large bill for their legal costs in doing so. Susan’s family have already been through enough. After Trigg’s conviction a Sussex Police officer visited Susan’s parents and apologised to them. It is incredible that Sussex Police now seek to avoid a full inquiry into whether Susan was adequately protected, and to intimidate Susan’s parents into withdrawing their challenge. It suggests that they are determined not to learn lessons from Susan’s death. The behaviour of Sussex Police in this case is bad news for victims of domestic violence.”
The family is calling for help to continue their judicial review proceedings by raising funds at www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-for-susan
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