Shana Grice: Police officers who fined stalking victim before she was murdered face disciplinary action

Nineteen-year-old was fined for wasting police time after she reported Michael Lane five times in six months 

Flora Thompson
Tuesday 09 April 2019 22:06
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Police interview suspect Michael Lane in relation to murder of teenager Shana Grice

Officers are facing disciplinary action after Shana Grice was fined for wasting police time before she was murdered by her stalker.

Two police officers, one of whom has retired, will face gross misconduct proceedings in front of an independent chairman at public hearings on 7 and 10 May, Sussex Police confirmed. Another police officer will face internal misconduct proceedings, which are carried out in private.

No further action will be taken over five other officers investigated by the Independent of Police Conduct (IOPC), while six other force employees - three officers and three staff - have already been handed "management advice and further training".

The 14 were investigated by the police watchdog after 19-year-old Miss Grice was murdered in Portslade, near Brighton, East Sussex, in 2016. Michael Lane slit her throat in her bedroom then tried to burn her body.

She had previously reported her ex-boyfriend to officers five times in six months, but was fined £90 for wasting police time.

Lane was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 25 years in March 2017.

The IOPC is understood to be recommending 18 new training measures for the force when it announces the findings of its investigation on Wednesday, according to Channel 4 News.

Lane's trial prompted widespread calls for action to ensure victims are taken seriously by police. He pursued Miss 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.

Singer Lily Allen, who was stalked for seven years, branded the case an example of police "continuing to ignore" warning signs.

At Lane's sentencing, Mr Justice Nicholas Green said officers "jumped to conclusions" and "stereotyped" Ms Grice.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) is due to publish its findings on how stalking and harassment cases are handled by police. The inquiry was ordered in the wake of Miss Grice's murder.

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. Since then we have undertaken all their recommendations, thoroughly reviewed all aspects of how we deal with cases of stalking and harassment and have significantly improved our service to victims.

"We are recording the second highest number of reports anywhere in the UK after the Met, and are now advising and supporting more victims than ever. With better awareness and enhanced training our approach is more robust in keeping people safe and feeling safe.

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"We encourage victims to come forward with the knowledge that our officers and staff are better trained and that they will take all reports seriously. We are absolutely aware of the consequences if our response is not the correct one, so we want to ensure that victims have confidence in how both police and the CPS will support them."

The news comes on the same day the IOPC announced a police call handler from the force was given "management advice" after failing to record a woman's reports of escalating violence by her ex-husband who shot her dead eight days later.

Michelle Savage spoke to Sussex Police three times before she was murdered alongside her 53-year-old mother Heather Whitbread in an execution-style killing at almost point-blank range in St Leonards on March last year.

She had told officers former soldier Craig Savage was dangerous and she feared for her life.

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said of both cases: "The police watchdog findings that Sussex Police failed and that there will be misconduct hearings are welcome, but much more is needed.

"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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