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There's no justice for women when men like Robert Trigg are not investigated

Sussex Police have no excuse for failing to treat the deaths of two of his partners as suspicious.

When Robert Trigg was given a life sentence for the killings of two women this week, it was much too late. Not just because it came six years after the death of Susan Nicholson – who Trigg murdered in 2011 – but because in 2011, he should already have been convicted of the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin in 2006.

The deaths of both women had been declared not suspicious by the police on first investigation, despite evidence of Trigg’s controlling behaviour and history of intimate partner violence. It’s only because Nicholson’s parents sought justice for their daughter at their own expense – hiring an independent barrister and pathologist to reexamine the original pathologist’s report – that Trigg isn’t still at large, terrorising another woman in her own home, perhaps killing again.

Sometimes, of course, criminals exert great deviousness and the police have to exert even greater doggedness and ingenuity to catch them. That, however, is not the case here.

Trigg killed both women in the town of Worthing. Their deaths were both attended by Sussex Police. In both cases, Trigg failed to call the emergency services himself – in the case of Devlin, callously sending her 14-year-old son to find her body. Both Trigg and his victims were intoxicated at the time of death. Both women appeared to have been asleep with Trigg when they died, and both were found in an unusual position.

And though women who suffer violence at the hands of their partner often cover for him out of shame and fear, Sussex Police had no excuse for not knowing what Trigg was. They had been been called to incidents involving Trigg and Nicholson at least six times before her death. In March 2011 – that’s a month before he killed her, so hardly in the lost and distant realms of history – Trigg received a caution for punching Nicholson in the face.

In fact, the explanation that Trigg offered, and the police accepted, for Nicholson’s death now sounds so pathetically unlikely, it’s hard not to become hysterical with outrage. He claimed that he rolled on to her in his sleep, inadvertently suffocating her.

As a CPS representative pointed out after Trigg’s conviction, with a dry understatement that says more than the most howling fury could: “It was extremely unlikely that two of Trigg's partners had died of natural causes while sharing a bed with him.” When the same terrible thing happens twice, we might reasonably start to suspect something more than bad luck.

There can be no justice for women if the police are failing to take the most blatant evidence of men’s violence as the starting point for an investigation. There can be no justice for women if their killers have to be pursued by private means: who will see your death answered for if the police call it an accident and your parents lack the means, ability or inclination to take on the case themselves? Justice that becomes a luxury good is no justice at all.

We tend to recognise now that women face a huge burden of disbelief and undermining when they try to call men to account. What we don’t perhaps talk about is the other side of the scale: the enormous positive discrimination they enjoy which means the same man in the same town can be found by same police force beside the body of a second woman, and say it wasn’t his fault, and have his lies accepted. It’s already too late for too many women.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

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Why Jeremy Corbyn’s evolution on Brexit matters for the Scottish Labour party

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, an ideological ally of Corbyn, backs staying in the customs union. 

Evolution. A long, slow, almost imperceptible process driven by brutal competition in a desperate attempt to adapt to survive. An accurate description then by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, of Labour’s shifting, chimera of a Brexit policy. After an away day that didn’t decamp very far at all, there seems to have been a mutation in Labour’s policy on customs union. Even McDonnell, a long-term Eurosceptic, indicated that Labour may support Tory amendments when the report stages of the customs and trade bills are finally timetabled by the government (currently delayed) to remain in either “The” or “A” customs union.

This is a victory of sorts for Europhiles in the Shadow Cabinet like Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer. But it is particularly a victory for Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. A strong ally of Jeremy Corbyn who comes from the same Bennite tradition, Leonard broke cover last month to call for exactly such a change to policy on customs union.

Scotland has a swathe of marginal Labour-SNP seats. Its voters opted voted by a majority in every constituency to Remain. While the Scottish National Party has a tendency to trumpet this as evidence of exceptionalism – Scotland as a kind-of Rivendell to England’s xenophobic Mordor – it’s clear that a more Eurocentric, liberal hegemony dominates Scottish politics. Scotland’s population is also declining and it has greater need of inward labour through migration than England. It is for these reasons that the SNP has mounted a fierce assault on Labour’s ephemeral EU position.

At first glance, the need for Labour to shift its Brexit position is not as obvious as Remainers might have it. As the Liberal Democrat experience in last year’s general election demonstrates, if you want to choose opposing Brexit as your hill to die on… then die you well may. This was to some extent replicated in the recent Scottish Labour Leadership race. Anas Sarwar, the centrist challenger, lost after making Brexit an explicit dividing line between himself and the eventual winner, Leonard. The hope that a juggernaut of Remainer fury might coalesce as nationalist resentment did in 2015 turned out to be a dud. This is likely because for many Remainers, Europe is not as high on their list of concerns as other matters like the NHS crisis. They may, however, care about it however when the question is forced upon them.

And it very well might be forced. One day later this year, the shape of a deal on phase two of the negotiations will emerge and Parliament will have to vote, once and for all, to accept or reject a deal. This is both a test and an incredible political opportunity. Leonard, a Scottish Labour old-timer, believes a deal will be rejected and lead to a general election.

If Labour is to win such an election resulting from a parliamentary rejection of the Brexit deal, it will need many of those marginal seats in Scotland. The SNP is preparing by trying to box Labour in. Last month its Westminster representatives laid a trap. They invited Corbyn to take part in anti-Brexit talks of opposition parties he had no choice but to reject. In Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon has been ripping into the same flank that Sarwar opened against Richard Leonard in the leadership contest, branding Labour’s Brexit position “feeble”. At the same time the Scottish government revealed a devastating impact assessment to accompany the negative forecasts leaked from the UK government. If Labour is leading a case against a “bad deal”,  it cannot afford to be seen to be SNP-lite.

The issue will likely come to a head at the Scottish Labour Conference early next month, since local constituency parties have already sent a number of pro-EU and single market motions to be debated there. They could be seen as a possible challenge to the leadership’s opposition to the single market or a second referendum. That is, If these motions make it to debate, unlike at national Labour Conference in 2017, where there seemed to be an organised attempt to prevent division.

When Leonard became leader, he stressed co-operation with the Westminster leadership. Still, unlike the dark “Branch Office” days of the recent past, Scottish Labour seems to be wielding some influence in the wider party again. And Scottish Labour figures will find allies down south. In January, Thornberry used a Fabian Society speech in Edinburgh, that Enlightenment city, to call for a dose of Scottish internationalism in foreign policy. With a twinkle in her eye, she fielded question after question about Brexit. “Ah…Brexit,” she joked. “I knew we’d get there eventually”. Such was Thornberry’s enthusiasm that she made the revealing aside that: “If I was not in the Leadership, then I’d probably be campaigning to remain in the European Union.”