Edmonds Marshall McMahon have successfully settled this highly publicised case against Surrey Police. It involved the tragic murder of Ms LaFave and Mr Bednar’s 14 year old son, Breck Bednar, by Lewis Daynes. The case was tragically mishandled and resulted in a suspected sexual offender being protected, rather than the vulnerable teenager, Breck Bednar.
Breck and Mr Daynes met on the internet and largely communicated via an online forum which allowed computer users to speak. Mr Daynes used this forum to befriend Breck and to establish a rapport with him and a number of other children, including some from Breck’s school.
Ms LaFave grew concerned that Mr Daynes was potentially grooming her son both sexually and in relation to terrorist activities. Mr Daynes sought to influence Breck by telling him that he had made £2.5 million via an investment in bitcoin (which he had donated to Syrian rebels) and tried to convince Breck that his parents were too controlling, Breck should leave home at 16 and that Mr Daynes would find him a job with Microsoft. On 17 December 2013, Ms LaFave telephoned Surrey police to inform them of her concerns about Mr Daynes. She was told by the Surrey Police call operator that checks would be run on Mr Daynes and information would be passed to the intelligence department. Ms LaFave did not hear further from the Police and these checks were not initiated. If those checks had been undertaken by Surrey Police, it is possible that this tragic event could have been avoided.
On Sunday 16 February 2013, Breck left home on the pretence of visiting a school friend who lived nearby when in fact he travelled by taxi from Surrey to Essex to meet with Mr Daynes. Whilst visiting Mr Daynes, Breck was violently stabbed in the neck and sustained fatal injuries. Mr Daynes, who was 18 years of age at the time, was arrested and charged with murder. He is currently serving a life sentence.
Mr Daynes’ Past
Following Breck’s murder, it became known that Mr Daynes had previously been arrested and investigated in 2011 on suspicion of a serious sexual assault or rape of a child. Mr Daynes was not charged in relation to the allegation despite making an admission at the time. There were a number of similarities between the 2011 investigation and Breck’s situation: The other victim was also a school child and had played computer games with Mr Daynes.
This potentially life saving information was never passed onto Breck’s parents.
Surrey’s Access to Mr Daynes’ records
The information relating to the 2011 investigation was not held on the Surrey Police database however it was held on the Essex Police database, a check of which should have been undertaken. At the time of Ms LaFave’s call to the police the Surrey and Essex Police had no formal information sharing system (contrary to Home Office Guidance). Had the Surrey Police conducted appropriate checks on Mr Daynes via the Police National Computer (PNC) this information would have been available to them and they would have been able to share it with Breck’s parents.
The Involvement of Edmonds Marshall McMahon
Edmonds Marshall McMahon was instructed by Mr Bednar and Ms LaFave to review the failure of the Police to act upon the information provided by Ms LaFave on the 17th December 2013 in line with their statutory duty and duty to adhere to published policy. It is believed that these failings contributed to the murder of Breck Bednar. These failings have been the subject of a review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who made several recommendations.
Mr Bednar and Ms LaFave also brought claims against the Surrey Police for (i) breach of duties in failing to protect Breck’s welfare under the Children Act 2004; (ii) breach of Breck’s right to life under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998; (iii) breach of Breck’s right to freedom from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998; (iv) breach of Breck’s right to a private life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998; and (v) for bereavement damages under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
The parties have now reached a settlement agreement in relation to all claims arising out of the tragic death of our clients’ son. The Surrey Police in conjunction with Mr Bednar and Ms LaFave have released a joint statement in which the police have accepted that mistakes were made in relation to the handling of the phone call from Ms LaFave and their response to the concerns she raised.
The Surrey police have unreservedly apologised to Mr Bednar and Ms LaFave for these failings. As part of the settlement agreement the Surrey Police have agreed to implement the recommended changes to their procedures to ensure that other children like Breck are protected in the future.
Mr Bednar said of Edmonds Marshall McMahon:
“We are extremely grateful to Kate McMahon and Lauren Priest at Edmonds Marshall McMahon. Through their dedication and tenacity, we have been able to engage with the IPCC and Surrey Police in a way that will result in real changes for the protection of children. They worked tirelessly and innovatively for this result.”