house keys

Give police power to seize domestic abusers’ house keys, pleads senior coroner

After a women was murdered by her husband after he was released on bail, a senior coroner demanded that the police be given the authority to confiscate house keys from people suspected of domestic abuse.

Andrew Cox, the coroner for Cornwall, reached the decision after hearing the circumstances surrounding Sharon Harmon’s 2021 stabbing to death. Police were unable to seize Neil Harman’s keys after his release on parole following his arrest for assaulting his wife because they lived together.

According to The Times, Chris Philip, the minister for security, has received a letter from Cox arguing that there is a “obvious disconnect” in the authority of the police.

The coroner encouraged the government to take action before more murders happened following the inquest in Truro, which came to the conclusion that Harmen had killed his wife in violation of the law.

Cox has written a prevention of future deaths report, which coroners submit when they feel drastic measures need to be done to stop similar incidents from happening.

According to current policy, police may only seize a victims house keys if the suspect and victim do not reside in the same residence.

Cox told The Times:

“The situation here was that Mr and Mrs Harman lived together [and] shared ownership. Consideration was given to whether police could retain his house key, given that a bail condition was imposed requiring him not to attend the address.

Mr Harman’s key was returned to him. It was found snapped off in the lock of the house door, along with a destroyed bolt, after he forced entry.”

Jennifer Cirone, director of services for Solace Women’s Aid, also told The Times:

“Sadly, many abusive people will completely ignore any legal restrictions.

There’s nothing to stop somebody breaking in or gaining access to a [domestic abuse] survivor when they’re taking children to school or going to work. Unless the survivor is going to stay in the house, removing house keys won’t do much to practically increase their safety.”

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