The case of Shana Grice came to light earlier in the week after the IPOC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) inquiry found the PC in charge of the case not guilty of gross misconduct. Shana was brutally murdered by her former partner: Michael Lane, in August 2016. There had been five reports of stalking made to the Police by Shana over a 6 month period, 13 other women had made reports of Lane stalking them previously. Lane was simply cautioned, Shana was fined £90 for wasting Police time. We question, when will victim-blaming by the Police Force in sexually predatory cases be addressed and tackled.
In August of 2016 Lane slipped into Shana’ accommodation after her flatmates and current boyfriend had left for work and slit her throat with deadly consequences. His next move was to use her credit card to withdraw £60 from her account to purchase fuel with the intention of burning the corpse. Previously, having gone to the extremities of fitting a tracker to her car and stealing her keys to enter her bedroom and observe her sleeping. This was not the first time he had been shown to act obsessively, 13 women had reported him for behaving in a similar manner over the last decade.
Despite putting forward a plea of not guilty, Lane was convicted of murder in 2017 and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars. The judge, Sir Nicholas Green was very critical of the handling of the case by Sussex Police:
“There was seemingly no appreciation on the part of those investigating that a young woman in a sexual relationship with a man could at one and the same time be vulnerable and at risk of serious harm. The police jumped to conclusions and Shana was stereotyped.”
As a response to the judge’ statement, the Deputy Chief Constable admitted to ‘Failings’ by Sussex Police.
Last week saw the conclusion of the IOPC hearing into the case. Shana had reported Lane to the Police 5 times in 6 months for stalking. A telephone conversation which had been recorded by Shana, clearly stated that she wanted no further contact with Lane.
The Officer in charge of the case, Trevor Godfrey, retired directly after Shana’ murder. At the trial, he claimed that there had been inconsistencies in Shana’ claims and she had failed to disclose her former relationship with Lane. He made further claims that kiss’ added to text messages indicated they were involved in a consensual relationship. No consideration was given to the fact Shana may have been trying to pacify a proven to be violent Lane.
In a minute and a half phone call with Shana, PC Godfrey explained to Shana that any evidence of stalking which she had provided had been discredited. However, in his defense, it had in fact been his colleague that had decided to fine Shana for wasting Police time. In response to these actions, Shana’ felt unable to approach the authorities again with additional concerns about Lane’ predatory stalking. Earlier in the week, PC Godfrey was found guilty of misconduct, but not of the greater charge of gross misconduct, allowing him full access to his pension. Shana’ parent responded to the outcome:
“We firmly believe Shana would be alive today if Sussex Police had acted to protect Shana on the many occasions she complained about Lane rather than issue her with a fine for wasting police time.”
The Police Federation claimed that PC Godfrey’ actions were ‘Appropriate’.
Is guilty of misconduct by not gross misconduct a sufficient outcome of the trial? Are the comments of the Police Federation justified? A nineteen-year-old girl put on trial unjustly by the Police force months before her eventual killer would stand trial. PC Godfrey, in addition to other Officers clearly negligent and evidence of Police Force which is unwilling to protect the lives of those in which it has been designated to do so. As a society, it is time to push for the Police to raise their standards to that of at least ‘Adequate’ in sexual predator cases. We need systems in place to identify elements of victim-blaming by Police Officers from a much earlier stage. Equal to this, we need the power to fine removed from incompetent Police Officers.
Finally, and to the memory of Shana, we need to see no further cases of victims of sexual predators being failed by the Police Force.