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22 Jan 2008 : Column 403WH—continued

Mr. Ellwood: There are some flaws in the document. For it to pinpoint an area of Bournemouth that is currently under water does not make sense. I would welcome the opportunity to explain to the Minister that people in Westminster cannot make decisions based on a document that contains such massive errors.
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If I may beg your indulgence on another point, Miss Begg, housing numbers have been proposed but with no reference to an increase in infrastructure spending. The latter is crucial. Many areas would not mind extra development if it was matched with an influx of investment in the infrastructure.

Yvette Cooper: As I said, there are obviously issues around the propriety of the process, so it is important that we respect that. I am happy to discuss specific issues of housing with the hon. Gentleman, but we need to respect the wider process. I would be happy to discuss the matter with the hon. Gentleman after the debate.

I wish to make two final points on the question of infrastructure and the wider issues that have been raised. As I said, I cannot comment today on the content of the regional spatial strategy or the overarching housing proposals for the south-west, but I can respond to some of the wider points made about housing that will impact on the rest of the country—for example, the need for more investment in infrastructure.

I strongly agree that we need more investment; indeed, the Department for Communities and Local Government is investing £1.7 billion in housing infrastructure over the next three years, but we believe that more is needed. That is precisely why we are legislating through the Planning Bill for local councils to be able to raise a community infrastructure levy, better to link housing with infrastructure. I hope that hon. Members on all sides will support those proposals, as they are particularly important.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: It is important that the Minister answers the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope). Will we be able to comment on the entire report during the consultation, or only the changes proposed to it?

Yvette Cooper: The hon. Gentleman will be able to put forward views to the Secretary of State on the proposed changes and the document that she publishes. He will be able to respond to the document set out by the Secretary of State at that time.

Hon. Members on all sides have spoken about the importance of the quality of life. I agree; it is hugely important. However, we also need to consider the quality of life for a 30-year-old who cannot live with his partner and his little baby because they cannot afford to buy a home together—the boomerang kids who are back living with their parents again because they cannot afford a home. We must also consider quality of life for overcrowded families, who also need more housing.

The debate is part of a wider discussion about the country’s future and our need for more housing. We should all take responsibility for the next generation, to ensure that they have the quality of life that we currently enjoy.

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David Burrows

12.30 pm

Mike Wood (Batley and Spen) (Lab): Thank you, Miss Begg. I am pleased to have the opportunity to consider a very serious and troubling case from my constituency.

Let me start by outlining what happened. In 2005, three men were stabbed—one fatally—and the man found guilty of the murder subsequently committed suicide in custody. That was a complete waste, and the family of the stabbed man want to ensure that lessons have been learned, so that no other family must face the loss and heartache that they have faced. Specifically, family members want to see changes in the way in which the police handle situations of escalating violence and in the interface between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. They believe, with good reason, that their relative would still be alive if both those bodies had operated differently.

Time constraints will not allow me to cover the inadequacies, as the family see it, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry or the way in which the judicial system treats victims; suffice it to say that the family believe that they have not been well served in either case. Let me spend five minutes, however, outlining the background to the murder.

My constituent, Mr. Darrell Burrows, set up a haulage business with his brother, Clive Hoyland, in 1974. The business, which was based in Ravensthorpe in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Malik), flourished, and other members of the extended Burrows family, including Darrell’s son, David, joined the work force.

The family remember few, if any, problems before 2001, when Mr. Gavin Hogg rented a work space near the business. Within two years, however, the situation had changed dramatically, as the family’s firm, along with several others on the industrial estate, started to be subjected to a campaign of intimidation, damage and antisocial behaviour by Gavin Hogg.

Matters came to a head in April 2005, when the company gained planning permission for an extension to its premises. The proposed development enraged Mr. Hogg, and there were several incidents involving threats and intimidation, which culminated on 9 May, when he blocked access to the site with a JCB and a car. The police were called for the second time in a matter of weeks to deal with the situation and they believed that they had resolved the problems.

Later that day, however, Mr. Hogg told another neighbour on the estate that he intended to kill Darrell Burrows the next day and make it look like an accident, and that is exactly what he attempted. As Mr. Burrows arrived for work on 10 May, he was greeted by Mr. Hogg, who punched him in the face and pulled him from his car before dragging him across a works yard and down a set of steps to a canal, where he intended to drown him. By pure chance, however, Mr. Hogg, not Mr. Burrows, fell into the water, which allowed Mr. Burrows to make his escape.

According to police records, Mr. Burrows was left with a bruised and swollen right eye with a cut above it, four grazes and cuts to his right forearm, cuts and grazes to three fingers on his right hand, grazes to both
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knees, cuts to fingers on his left hand, bleeding around a fingernail and both elbows grazed and bleeding. As one can imagine, he feared for his life. His trousers and sweater were also in tatters, his watch was damaged and his car, which had careered off when he was dragged out of it, sustained £13,000 of damage.

Obviously, the police were called again, but the neighbour to whom Mr. Hogg had outlined his intention to kill Mr. Burrows had himself been subject to two years of intimidation by Hogg and refused to sign a statement without police protection, but that was refused. The investigating officer heard his account, however, and it was included in information provided to the CPS later that day.

Despite two years of police involvement in the case, despite the fact that the police database showed Hogg to be a violent man and that at least one independent witness had said that the attack was a premeditated attempt at murder, and despite the injuries sustained by Mr. Burrows—a man in his 60s—Mr. Hogg, who was in his 30s, was later charged with a section 39 common assault and with criminal damage to the car.

As can be imagined, the family were distraught at that turn of events, not least because Mr. Hogg was bailed to continue his threats and intimidation. A month later, on 10 June, Mr. Clive Hoyland had a long conversation with the police to discuss the deteriorating situation. He is adamant that the police officer whom he spoke to agreed to visit the site to talk to the other factory owners, but that officer did not arrive and later claimed that no such appointment had been made.

On 13 September, Hogg was found guilty in the magistrates court of the charges of common assault and criminal damage and was bailed for sentencing the following day. Later that day, however, he again stalked and intimidated Mr. Burrows, who made two telephone calls to the police in the evening to request help, because he believed that Mr. Hogg was breaking the conditions of his bail. Nothing happened.

The following morning, on Wednesday 14 September, Mr. Burrows attended a local police station, accompanied by a work colleague and his solicitor, to outline the intimidation that had taken place on the previous evening and to ask the police to act. His request was refused on the officer’s mistaken belief that Hogg had not broken the terms of his bail.

At lunch time that day, Hogg crashed his car into that of Mr. Burrows, which was parked outside the family’s premises. When Mr. Burrows and colleagues went outside to investigate, Mr. Hogg stabbed him, Clive Hoyland and Darrell’s son, David. David, a father of two, died soon after, and Mr. Hoyland, having missed death by half an inch according to the hospital consultant, was hospitalised for two weeks, while Mr. Burrows senior was hospitalised for a lesser period.

In essence, therefore, the situation worsened greatly over two years, and the police were involved on at least seven and, by some accounts, many more occasions. None the less, a man lost his life, and several families have been devastated.

Perhaps we should just accept that that is the way things worked out and that bad things happen in life. Psychiatric reports that were produced on Mr. Hogg at his trial suggested that he suffered either from a mixed personality disorder of some severity or a schizotypal
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disorder, and he had had a psychiatric assessment as early as 1992. He was paranoid and apparently suffered depression for many years, and professional reports variously described him as suffering from social phobia and as being a

Well, the bomb went off on 14 September 2005, with devastating results for the Burrows family.

Family members believe that the events could have been avoided if a different course of action had been taken on any one of the many occasions on which they contacted the police to seek help. Specifically, they believe that, if the attempted murder of Darrell Burrows had been seen for what it was and treated as such, Mr. Hogg would not have been at liberty to kill David Burrows.

The family also believe that, if the police had been more persistent in working with the witness to Hogg’s premeditated threat to kill Mr. Burrows, there would have been sufficient evidence for the charge of attempted murder, instead of the derisory charge of common assault. Even a section 47 assault might have made bail less likely. The judge at Hogg’s subsequent trial, however, was quite clear that there had been an attempt to kill.

The family specifically believe that an unseemly rush to clear up matters—no doubt with one eye on the expectations of the public and the media—meant that there was a consistent tendency on the part of the police to underplay the seriousness of what was a steadily worsening situation. Several times, the IPCC reports uses the phrase

Well, the matter was not resolved.

The family also specifically believe that finding a series of individual officers guilty of various failings in their duty, as the IPCC report does, misses the point. There appears to be a systemic problem with the way in which the police operate in such situations, with each incident apparently being treated as though there was no context. As a result, its seriousness and significance are missed.

I shall refer at this point to the Peter Woodhams murder of January 2006, in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick). Exactly the same series of events seems to have happened, with the same response from the police force in question. That two officers were required to resign as a result of the inquiry misses the point, which is the apparent inability of the police system to intervene in such situations before a fatality takes place, despite many warning signs about the danger to the victim and the oft-stated view of the victim and his family that his life was under threat. Darrell Burrows told the police officer in the police station on the morning of the 14th—the morning of the murder—that if action were not taken, there would be a fatality.

I now want to deal with the involvement of the Crown Prosecution Service, which directed the police on the appropriate charges after the attempted murder of Darrell Burrows in May 2005. As we know, and as I have said, its advice was to proceed with charges of common assault and criminal damage. What hon. Members might not know is the process by which that decision and other such decisions are arrived at.

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First, there was no face-to-face meeting between the police and the CPS representative, who sat in a call centre in the midlands and had information faxed and e-mailed to him. That is CPS Direct. That was then followed up by a telephone conversation between the police officer who completed the paperwork and the solicitor who acted for the CPS. However, the police officer who conducted that conversation was not the officer who investigated the crime and had not visited the scene or spoken to any of the other parties involved.

The CPS representative accepted that the case was one of premeditated violence against Mr. Burrows—that is apparent from the record sheet—but suggested a charge of common assault, in the face of an apparent refusal by the one witness to sign a statement to attest to premeditated attempted murder. Why was Hogg, I wonder, not bailed for further investigations, rather than being charged with two minor offences?

The CPS officer made his decision, as is again apparent from his record sheet, without reference to the full police files in the case. It is unclear whether he had police files on Mr. Hogg at his disposal either, although that also appears unlikely. As I said at the outset, the view of the family is that, if an appropriate charge had been brought at that juncture, Mr. Hogg would not have been at liberty to kill David.

What cannot be denied is the flawed nature of a system of long-distance liaison between the CPS, in the person of a solicitor who apparently had not obtained access to the full background details of the case, and a police officer who had to relay third-hand information given to him by the colleagues who had conducted the investigation.

As a result of what I have described, I have four or five questions for the Minister. The family believe that it is reasonable, in situations that develop over a period of time—in this case two years—and in which the police have several involvements, to expect the police to act proactively and not just to react to each incident in an atomised fashion. First, if the Minister agrees with the family about that, what changes can be made to police operations to encourage and support that approach? Secondly, has the pressure for results and for crimes to be cleared up reached the point at which, for both the police and the CPS, there is a tendency to downplay offences?

Let us remember a police officer was told by a credible business man that he was told by Hogg that he was going to kill Darrell Burrows. All the evidence was that he attempted to carry out that threat, but because the witness refused to make a written statement without some support that was dismissed as no longer relevant. Thirdly, should more efforts be made to secure a statement in such cases, as was suggested, again, by the trial judge in Hogg’s case?

Fourthly, does the need to clear up cases get in the way of overseeing matters, which might have led to a more proactive approach in this case and in the saving of the life of a quiet family man, killed in his prime? Fifthly, what responsibility do the police have for liaison with mental health services? Both services had been dealing with Mr. Hogg since 1990. Finally, the family want to know what changes have taken place in police and CPS operations since the deaths of David and of Peter Woodhams, to ensure that such things never happen again.

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12.45 pm

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Mike Wood) on securing the debate, albeit on a tragic subject. As he said, the tragic case of David Burrows, who was murdered by Gavin Hogg on 14 September 2005, is precisely that—a tragedy—and I offer condolences to his family, two members of which, his father and uncle, were also injured by Mr. Hogg. I shall try to address the spirit of my hon. Friend’s questions at the end of my remarks.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for describing the circumstances of the events that led to the sad death of David Burrows and for raising concerns about the way in which matters were handled by West Yorkshire police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC gave instructions on 6 December about disciplinary sanctions and words of advice to be passed on to police officers, but I will ensure that both CPS West Yorkshire and the chief constable of West Yorkshire get a copy of our deliberations today, and will ask them firmly what lessons they have learned from the events described by my hon. Friend. I shall seek assurances that those lessons have been learned.

I shall briefly outline my understanding of the circumstances of the case. My hon. Friend has set them out in some detail and is right to say that there were several disputes between Hogg and the Burrows family, which had on a number of occasions been brought to the attention of the police. As I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, decisions on how to respond to matters that are reported to the police are operational ones, and are ultimately the responsibility of the chief officer of the force, who must decide how best to use the available resources in the interest of the community that the force serves. However, I take on, and will feed back into my deliberations with the police more generally, the notion of context and oversight, when things are duly reported. I think that that does happen, but sadly things go wrong, as happened in this case. In defence of the police more broadly, they try to contextualise. I do not think that I accept the point that pressure for results and clear-up gets in the way of due process and the effort to contextualise and ensure that any history of a complaint is taken into account. However, I shall pass on my hon. Friend’s comments.

My hon. Friend knows that David’s father was assaulted in May 2005 and the family certainly think that that was a catalyst for what tragically ensued four months later. He has detailed how Hogg was charged just with common assault. The family believe that that charge did not reflect the seriousness of the attack, and that the police were responsible for that fact. However, as my hon. Friend is aware, the decision on the charge to be brought was made by the reviewing Crown Prosecution Service lawyer. The CPS is responsible for deciding whether criminal charges should be brought and what they should be. It would not be proper for me to comment on the decision that was taken, but I shall try to ensure, as I have said, that the lessons of the case will be learned.

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