Solicitor in the police law department at Bhatt Murphy, London
Who? Sophie Naftalin, a solicitor in the police law department at Bhatt Murphy, London.
Why is she in the news? Represents the family of Linah Keza, a victim of domestic abuse, who was stabbed to death by her ex-partner days after she made numerous calls to the police. Earlier this month a misconduct panel found that three officers breached standards of professional behaviour before Linah’s death.
Thoughts on the case: ‘In the week before her death, Linah had repeatedly sought the protection of the police from her ex-partner, who was stalking her. Officers failed to assess or address the risk Linah faced; most obviously by not circulating him as wanted for arrest. Two days later, he murdered her. It is scandalous that the police failings in Linah’s case are commonplace. Though policies on domestic abuse and risk assessment are improving, those policies only serve a purpose if they are put into practice by officers on the ground. Time and time again we are seeing a failure to adequately assess risk or pick up on red flags.’
In a statement, Metropolitan Police commander Catherine Roper said: ‘It is clear that these officers could and should have done more to protect Miss Keza from her abusive partner, and on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service I would like to apologise to her family for the failings that have been highlighted during the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation, and misconduct hearings. We always look to learn from mistakes made during investigations.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Linah’s family want her life and death to be more than another depressing statistic. They want her story to be told and barriers that she may have faced as a BME woman to be identified. They hope that her avoidable death results in change. The law can go some way to achieving those aims, but media coverage of the case has been essential in opening up Linah’s case to the public with a view to magnifying its impact on policy and practice.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘To use the law as a tool to achieve social justice. While I am no longer sure that it is possible to achieve “justice” through the work I do, I nevertheless feel privileged to be able to accompany my clients on their very personal journeys seeking answers and accountability from the police and other state bodies.’
Career high: ‘In addition to Linah’s case, in the last two months I have represented families in two domestic homicide inquests (Donna Williamson and Anne-Marie Nield) both of which concluded with critical narratives and prevention of future death reports addressing failures in how police officers deal with domestic abuse.