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Harriet Gilchrist, instructed by Patrick Maguire of HCC Solicitors, represented the family of Sharon Elaine Harman who was killed at home by her husband on 6 August 2021.
On 4 August 2021 Neil Harman was arrested on suspicion of Actual Bodily Harm following a domestic incident involving his wife, who also reported an assault on 31 July 2021. Mr Harman was released on police bail on 5 August 2021 with conditions of non-contact and to not attend the family address. On 6 August 2021 Mr Harman breached his bail conditions and attempted to gain entry to the family home using his house key which had been returned to him by police. As the door had been bolted, he was not able to gain access using the key, causing him to force his way into the property. Once inside the property he proceeded to stab his wife 47 times before stabbing himself 33 times, including cutting his own throat. The incident was witnessed by family members.
The Senior Coroner for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Andrew Cox, accepted the evidence of Dr Cox and found the cause of death to be “1a Stab wounds to the neck and chest” and recorded a conclusion of unlawful killing.
During the course of the inquest questioning of multiple police officers gave rise to a clear inconsistency between the College of Policing Approved Professional Practice and s. 19 of PACE. The APP Guidance states that before a suspect is released on bail police should check if they are “in possession of keys to the victims house or car and remove them if so” although no power to seize the keys in law exists.
Following representations from Miss Gilchrist the Coroner exercised his power to make a Prevention of Future Deaths report to Chris Philip MP, Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, highlighting the obvious disconnect between the APP issued by the College of Policing and the law provided under s. 19 PACE. The Police Officers who gave evidence at the inquest agreed that an additional power to retain the house key would be a helpful power to have.
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