Coroner demands police are given powers to seize house keys of domestic abuse suspects – after inquest heard that ‘control freak’ fisherman who stabbed his wife to death was able to go home after arrest for assaulting her
- Neil Harman stabbed his wife Sharon to death while on bail for assault
- Andrew Cox, a senior coroner in Cornwall, is now calling for Government change
A coroner has demanded police are given the power to confiscate the house keys of domestic abuse suspects to prevent them killing their partners following the outcome of a horrific case.
‘Control freak’ fisherman Neil Harman stabbed his wife to death after being released on bail for assaulting her.
Though Harman was warned to stay away from his spouse Sharon, officers were powerless to retain the key of the house they shared together, an inquest previously heard.
Senior coroner Andrew Cox has now written to the Government warning that more cases such as these will take place in households across the country unless action is taken.
Neil Harman (pictured left) stabbed his wife Sharon (right) to death while on bail for assault
Two days before killing her, Harman assaulted his 49-year-old wife and was detained in custody – but was given his key back when he was released with a bail condition to stay away from her.
The key was found in the door of Mr and Mrs Harman’s marital home in Polperro, Cornwall, after he murdered her and took his own life on August 6, 2021. The fisherman stabbed his wife a total of 47 times before knifing himself 33 times, according to reports of the hearing.
Mr Cox has written to MP Chris Philp – the Minister of Policing – to warn that there is an ‘obvious disconnect’ in police powers regarding the issue. He has penned a Prevention of Future Deaths Report, usually reserved for the most serious inquests where an organisation is urged to take action to prevent similar deaths happening.
He said: ‘During the course of the inquest the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern. In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.’
Mr Cox said current policing laws only allow officers to detain keys in situations where a suspect doesn’t live with their victim.
Senior coroner Andrew Cox (pictured) is now calling for Government action
He said: ‘The guidance appears to anticipate a situation where a suspect and victim live at separate addresses but may have shared keys. The situation here was that Mr and Mrs Harman lived together at their home address in which they had shared ownership.
‘After police had interviewed Mr Harman for an offence of assaulting Elaine and causing her actual bodily harm – a charge Mr Harman denied – 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. It was felt that police did not have this power in law under s19 PACE or otherwise.
‘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 Mr Harman forced entry.
‘In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you [MP Philp and the government] have the power to take such action.
‘There appears an obvious disconnect in the guidance issued by the College of Policing and the laws provided to police under s19 PACE or otherwise. This appears of particular concern in cases of domestic violence where, previously, the parties have lived together.
‘The police officers who gave evidence at inquest were of one voice that an additional power to retain a house key – for the duration of imposed bail conditions only – would be an additional and helpful power to have.’
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