Official independent investigators have told Sussex Police to improve the way that they handle allegations of stalking after the death of Shana Grice.
Ms Grice, 19, was murdered in the bedroom of her Portslade home in August 2016 after being stalked by a jealous former boyfriend, Michael Lane.
She had appealed to Sussex Police for help but ended up being given a fixed penalty fine for wasting police time.
Five months later an emboldened Lane, who also lived in Mile Oak, murdered her.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) started an investigation after Sussex Police referred the case to the watchdog.
And in March 2017 a jury convicted Lane of her murder and a judge jailed him for a minimum of 25 years.
The IOPC said: “The following month we announced that Sussex Police had accepted six quick-time learning recommendations regarding how it handles allegations of stalking following work on this investigation.
“The recommendations included improvements to the way officers are trained in recognising cases involving stalking and harassment and how to best safeguard victims.
“They also focused on improvements to data storage and retrieval and better use of existing systems to ensure relevant information is accurately logged, considered and reviewed.
“We completed our investigation in June 2018.
“As a result, and following a statutory process with Sussex Police, it was agreed that one officer should face a gross misconduct hearing and four officers have a case to answer for misconduct, with one to attend a misconduct meeting and the other three to receive management action.
“It was also agreed that two further members of staff should receive informal management advice.
“The IOPC has also directed that Sussex Police schedule a misconduct hearing for one more officer in relation to his actions prior to the death of Ms Grice.
“A further 12 quick-time recommendations were made to Sussex Police during our investigation, resulting in 18 recommendations in total. These related to effective training and use of risk assessments (the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence – DASH 2009), effective use of a further 11 dedicated set of questions designed to identify the nature of the alleged stalking or harassment (the S-DASH) and the use of Police Information Notices and the use of Fixed Penalty Notices.”
IOPC regional director Sarah Green said: “Sussex Police have responded to our recommendations but as can be seen from the HMICFRS report published today there is still more work to be done. I would urge Sussex Police to make it a priority to fully address the issues we have identified.
“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 IOPC said: “Our investigation reviewed all contact Sussex Police had with Ms Grice and Mr Lane regarding allegations of stalking, harassment and assault.
“In February 2016 Ms Grice informed Sussex Police that she believed Mr Lane was stalking her. Mr Lane was given words of advice about his behaviour.
“In March 2016 Sussex Police were contacted regarding an alleged assault on Ms Grice by Mr Lane. During the police investigation it was revealed Ms Grice had been in a relationship with Mr Lane and she was subsequently fined for wasting police time.
“In July 2016 Ms Grice reported Mr Lane to Sussex Police for stealing her house key, entering her home and entering her bedroom while she slept. Mr Lane was arrested and given a police caution for theft of the key, and a Police Information Notice.
“The next day Ms Grice called the police again after receiving a number of missed calls from a withheld number. It was later established by Sussex Police these calls came from Mr Lane’s home but Ms Grice was not informed and no action was taken against him.
“Later in July, Ms Grice complained to Sussex Police that Mr Lane had followed her to work. She was told an officer would respond to this and told the same information when she called later for an update.
“Mr Lane entered Ms Grice’s home and murdered her on 25 August 2016.
“During our investigation, 14 individuals from Sussex Police were treated as subjects and provided evidence to the IOPC, six staff members and eight officers.
“We also interviewed a number of police witnesses and members of the public.
“Formal recommendations and the responses from Sussex Police will be published on our website in due course.
“Sussex Police has scheduled a misconduct hearing for one officer to take place on (Tuesday) 7 May and for the second officer to take place on (Friday) 10 May.
“On Monday (8 April) we launched our ‘Make Yourself Heard’ campaign, during National Stalking Awareness Week, to raise awareness of a system to help people alert police when in imminent danger but unable to speak.
“The Silent Solution system enables a 999 mobile caller who is too scared to make a noise, or speak, to press 55 when prompted – to inform police they are in a genuine emergency.
“The system is well-established in the UK but is only effective if the public know and understand how it works. It could, in extreme situations, potentially save a life.”
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.
“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.”
Two police officers, one of whom has retired, will face gross misconduct proceedings, with an independent chair, on Tuesday 7 May and Friday 10 May.
Another police officer is to face internal misconduct proceedings. Three other police officers and three members of police staff, have received management advice and further training. Five other police and staff are not to face any action.
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