Taylor Rose MW represent family of Bendall victims
FARVA BUTT >
SolicitorWed 1 November 2023
A series of "very stark" failures by the Probation Service contributed to the murders of a mother and three children by Damien Bendall, a coroner has concluded.
Bendall, 33, is serving a whole life sentence for murdering his 35-year-old girlfriend Terri Harris, her children, John Paul Bennett, 13, and Lacey Bennett, 11, and Lacey's friend, 11-year-old Connie Gent, in September 2021.
They were attacked with a claw hammer in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, and Bendall also admitted raping Lacey.
The inquest at Chesterfield Coroner's Court concluded they were unlawfully killed, and senior coroner Peter Nieto said that while Bendall bore "primary responsibility" for the "brutal and savage" murders, there were "several very stark acts or omissions" by both the Probation Service and individuals that "accumulatively" contributed to the deaths.
Speaking at the Inquest, he added: "My conclusion is unlawful killing, contributed to by acts or omissions by the designated state agency for offending management in the course of Damien Bendall's offender supervision and management."
Bendall's history and allegations of domestic abuse against a former partner and inappropriate contact with a young girl in care were missed due to a "failure to demonstrate sufficient professional curiosity", Mr Nieto said.
The Probation Service accepted 51 separate failings at the inquests, in which it accepted a catalogue of missed opportunities and lack of scrutiny concerning Bendall’s supervision going back several years.
At the time of the murders, Bendall was serving a suspended sentence with a curfew and alcohol treatment requirement following an arson committed in 2020.
He was deemed a low risk to partners and children and recommended for curfew at Ms Harris’s home in the pre-sentence report for the arson written by a probation officer, a report that Mr Nieto described as “wholly inadequate and misleading” and that was part of a “profoundly and seriously flawed” report process.
Closing the inquest, Mr Nieto acknowledged widespread systemic failure over many years in the probation service including failures of supervision, auditing, monitoring of practice, failures in training, lack of competent staffing, failures around allocation decisions and recording systems and failures in risk assessment procedures. He added that he would write a Prevention of Future Deaths report and extended his condolences to the victims’ families and friends after a “difficult two weeks”.
Farva Butt, Solicitor in our Actions Against the Police Department represented Angela Smith and Lawrence Harris – the parents and grandparents of Terri, John Paul and Lacey – at the inquest said: “We are pleased that the systemic failings of the probation service that led to the death of a loving mother and three innocent children have finally been acknowledged.
“It is imperative that lessons are learned from this horrendous tragedy and the appropriate safeguarding measures are now put in place, so no other family is ever again put through the trauma that Angela and Lawrence will remember for the rest of their lives. We look forward to reading the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report next month and to ensuring his recommendations are implemented in full by the Probation Services."
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