Shana Grice: Teenager murdered by her stalker boyfriend was 'treated like a criminal' by police officers meant to protect her, parents say

‘She paid for the police’s lack of training, care and poor attitude with her life’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 10 April 2019 17:47
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Police interview suspect Michael Lane in relation to murder of teenager Shana Grice

The family of a teenager who was murdered by her former boyfriend after reporting his stalking to police have said she was “treated like a criminal” by officers who were meant to protect her.

Shana Grice, 19, reported Michael Lane to police five times in six months, but was fined £90 for wasting police time and killed later that year.

Her parents, Sharon Grice and Richard Green, said: “Our daughter took her concerns to the police and instead of being protected was treated like a criminal. She paid for the police’s lack of training, care and poor attitude with her life.”

Lane slit Grice’s throat before trying to burn her body at her Brighton home in August 2016. He was jailed for life for murder.

He pursued Grice by fitting a tracker to her car, stole a house key to sneak into her room while she slept and loitered outside her home. It later emerged 13 other women had reported him to police for stalking.

The judge in the trial said Sussex Police had “jumped to conclusions” and treated Grice “as a wrongdoer”, approaching her complaints with scepticism after she was fined.

Police officers who were involved in the case are to face gross misconduct proceedings and Sussex Police has since brought in a plan to improve its response to stalking and harassment.

But Grice’s family said the changes were “too little, too late”.

“A young girl went to them for protection and ended up murdered in her own home by the very person she’d asked the police to protect her from,” her parents said.

“The proof will, of course, be in whether the changes are adhered to by officers and whether Sussex Police prevent other young innocent girls dying on their watch.”

The family’s lawyer, Andrew Petherbridge of Hudgell Solicitors, said that although police would learn lessons from the case, any procedural changes “should overshadow the fact that individual officers still have serious questions to answer about their conduct towards Shana in the run-up to her untimely death”.

“Stalking is a life-changing crime for its victims and as evidenced by Shana’s case, can lead to the most tragic of consequences if not tackled,” he added.

Ms Grice first reported Lane for stalking in February 2016 and he was "given words of advice" by police.

She reported an assault the following month but was fined for wasting police time because she did not initially tell police they had been in a relationship.

Shana Grice

In July 2016 Ms Grice reported Lane to Sussex Police stealing her house key and entering her bedroom while she slept, but he was only cautioned for the theft of the key.

The next day, Ms Grice called the police again after getting several missed calls from a withheld number. Police later found they were made from Lane's house but Ms Grice was not told and no police action was taken.

She called police again later the same month after Lane followed her to work and was told an officer would respond, but received no update. Lane entered Ms Grice’s home and murdered her on 25 August 2016.

Two police officers, one of whom has retired, will face gross misconduct proceedings in front of an independent chairman at public hearings in May, Sussex Police has confirmed.

Another police officer will face internal misconduct proceedings, which are carried out in private.

No further action will be taken against five other officers investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), while six other force employees – three officers and three staff – have already been handed “management advice and further training”.

IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: “Stalking and harassment are serious offences and, as in the case of Shana, can have tragic consequences.

“Our recommendations cover areas such as implementing best practice in handling allegations of harassment and stalking, improvements in training and improving the quality of risk assessments.”

The case has prompted renewed calls for action to ensure victims are taken seriously by police.

An inquiry by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which was ordered in the wake of Grice’s murder, found that stalking and harassment offences were not being investigated by police consistently or effectively.

Michael Lane was jailed for life for murdering Shana Grice (PA)

It called on the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure forces around the country make improvements, raising concern that the lack of a single definition for stalking left the crime undetected and victims at risk.

Inspector Wendy Williams said Sussex Police itself had made “some significant improvements” but still had work to do ensure that all victims receive an appropriate and consistent service.

In another Sussex Police case, a police call handler failed to record a woman’s reports of escalating violence by her ex-husband, eight days before he shot her dead.

Michelle Savage spoke to police three times before she was murdered alongside her 53-year-old mother at point-blank range in St Leonards last March.

Sussex Police urged stalking victims to come forward “with the knowledge that our officers and staff are better trained and that they will take all reports seriously”, after the force took on recommendations.

Assistant chief constable Nick May said: “We deeply regret the tragic death of Shana Grice in 2016 and are committed to constantly improving our understanding of stalking and our response to it.

“When we looked at the circumstances leading to Shana’s murder, we felt we may not have done the very best we could and made a referral to the IOPC.

“Our then-deputy chief constable personally visited Shana’s family to apologise on behalf of Sussex Police.”

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Numerous inquests and inquiries have found that multiple police forces have failed to protect women who were murdered.

“There is a massive failing in police leadership on domestic and sexual violence which is not simply about cuts.

“The home secretary should call time on the promises to do better and require improvement or removal of leaders in forces where women are not being protected.”

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