Police told not to hand out fixed penalty notices in stalking cases
Officers have been told not to hand out fixed penalty notices in stalking and harassment cases after teenager Shana Grice was fined for wasting police time before she was murdered.
The police watchdog issued the recommendation to the chief constables of all police forces in England and Wales in the wake of the 19-year-old’s killing at the hands of her ex-boyfriend after he spent months stalking and harassing her.
On Thursday the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) published its final report into how officers handled her complaints before she died.
As well as issuing national guidelines to all police forces, the IOPC made a raft of recommendations to Sussex Police – telling it to properly train staff, improve risk assessments, communicate better and use systems correctly.
The College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Council have also been told to get forces to make sure officers and staff have the skills to do their jobs properly when investigating crime.
Miss Grice (pictured) reported Michael Lane to officers five times in six months but was fined for wasting police time.
The case was closed before her pleas for help were properly investigated.
On August 25 2016, Lane slit her throat before trying to burn her body. He was jailed in 2017 for a minimum of 25 years.
The sentencing judge said officers “stereotyped” Miss Grice before her death and failed to take her reports seriously.
Two of 14 officers and staff investigated by the IOPC over Miss Grice’s death were made the subject of publicly-held disciplinary proceedings.
Both left Sussex Police before the hearings were due to take place.
Pc Jon Barry Mills was banned from ever working as a police officer again but will keep his pension.
His tribunal, held in his absence, found he committed gross misconduct when he ignored Miss Grice’s repeated stalking reports and his actions may have “ultimately contributed” to the circumstances of her death.
Former Pc Trevor Godfrey, who accused Miss Grice of wasting officers’ time five months before she was murdered, was told at his tribunal that while his actions were serious, they did not amount to gross misconduct.
He retired before facing the misconduct proceedings but the finding meant he would not have been sacked had he still been a serving officer.
During the hearing, Mr Godfrey stood by his treatment of Miss Grice, which included making an 84-second phone call to her to tell her she would be fined for wasting police time over the harassment allegations. The decision was ratified by police bosses.
Miss Grice’s parents Sharon Grice and Richard Green described the hearing as “a sham”, claiming the tribunal’s panel allowed a “wholesale character assassination” of their daughter.
They added: “Godfrey’s testimony only proved his discriminatory attitude, even accusing Shana of coercing Lane.
“What message does this give to other officers? Even more importantly, what message does it send to victims?
“We are disgusted and feel thoroughly let down by the process. There is no justice.”
An unnamed sergeant who supervised the initial investigation on Lane was given a written warning after allegations against him were proven during a private misconduct meeting.
The IOPC decided this officer’s conduct did not warrant being discussed in a public hearing so recommended the matter was dealt with behind closed doors.
Three more officers and three staff have already been handed “management advice and further training”, while no further action will be taken over the other five officers investigated.
Earlier this year an independent report found the force’s approach to investigating stalking and harassment cases was not consistent or effective.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services also said police forces were “not protecting victims” from stalkers in its findings.
IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: “It is vitally important that as part of our work, good practice is recognised and shared, while shortcomings, be it in policies, systems or training, are identified and improved.”
Timeline to tragedy: How Shana Grice’s concerns were dismissed by Sussex Police
The final months of Shana Grice’s life were characterised by violence and threats at the hands of controlling former boyfriend Michael Lane, compounded by Sussex Police’s failure to properly investigate her claims.
She was later fined for wasting police time. By the end of the summer, she was dead.
A judge later said police “jumped to conclusions” and “stereotyped” Miss Grice, while her family said the murder could have been prevented if officers had taken the teenager’s complaints seriously.
Here is a timeline of the incidents surrounding the case:
February 8 2016: Shana Grice first reports Michael Lane to police for stalking her, sending her unwanted flowers and leaving a message on the car of her boyfriend, Ashley Cooke.
March 24: Police are called after Lane pulls Miss Grice’s hair and tries to grab her mobile phone. No further action is taken against him.
But Miss Grice is issued with a £90 fixed penalty notice for failing to disclose that she had been in a relationship with Lane, and for “having caused wasteful employment of police by making a false report”.
July 9: Lane is cautioned by police and told to stay away from Miss Grice after he steals a back door key from her home and lets himself in. He watches her sleeping before leaving.
July 10: Miss Grice reports to police that she has received around seven calls from a withheld number, including one with heavy breathing, which she believes is related to the incident the day before. She is told that there are no further lines of inquiry and that the case will be left on file.
July 12: Miss Grice reports to police that she has been followed by Lane.
August 23: Miss Grice meets Lane at a hotel in Hove where she confirms their relationship is over, though Lane refuses to accept it.
August 25: Lane enters Miss Grice’s bungalow in Brighton, slashes her throat, and sets fire to her bedroom.
March 22 2017: Jurors at Lewes Crown Court find Lane guilty of murder following a two-week trial.
He is subsequently jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.
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