Former Brighton PC accused of gross misconduct in Shana Grice case awaits disciplinary panel’s verdict
A former Brighton police officer who has been accused of gross misconduct over his role in the Shana Grice case is waiting to hear the verdict of a disciplinary panel.
PC Trevor Godfrey had denied wrongdoing when he investigated a claim that Michael Lane had assaulted Miss Grice in March 2016.
Despite an “admission” by Mr Lane, no further action was taken against him, while Miss Grice, 19, was given a £90 fine for wasting police time.
Five months later Lane killed Miss Grice at her home in Chrisdory Road, in Mile Oak, after a sustained campaign of stalking and harassment.
Mr Godfrey, who retired from Sussex Police in December 2017, said that Miss Grice had lied a number of times about being in a relationship with Lane in statements to the police.
As a result the officer had arrested Lane on suspicion of harassment while he was already in custody on suspicion of assault. But Miss Grice admitted that on the occasion in question she had asked Lane to come to her home.
Mr Godfrey said that she could have been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice which is punishable by imprisonment.
He said that any assault by Lane had been minor but, if he was prosecuted, Miss Grice would have had little or no credibility as a witness after signing a false statement.
He said that he had recommended that no further action be taken to Inspector Jason Hazzard but it was the inspector who made the decision.
Asked why he had not given Shana advice about her safety, he said: “There was no evidence that she was at risk at that point.
“There was no history of violence on the part of Lane. She was a willing participant in an affair with Lane. She was arranging meetings with him.”
Superintendent James Collis asked Mr Godfrey whether he had seen that Miss Grice was at risk of controlling and coercive behaviour. The former officer said that he had not seen that.
The chair of the disciplinary panel Victoria Goodfellow asked why Mr Godfrey had not read the force’s policy on domestic violence.
He said that Sussex Police had so many policies on so many things that it would be impossible to read them all and to do his job.
James Berry, for Sussex Police, said that Mr Godfrey’s approach was blinkered and fell a long way short of the standards of conduct expected of him and other officers.
Once he realised that Miss Grice had lied about being in a relationship, he stopped believing anything that she said.
He didn’t ask why she had misled him – and assumed that it was because she was interviewed in front of her official boyfriend and his family. Mr Godfrey did not ask Miss Grice whether she was afraid of Lane.
And despite admissions from Lane, he did not deal with the assault claim properly – when Lane grabbed Miss Grice’s phone – or treat it as part of a pattern of stalking and harassment.
Mr Berry said that “the most stark breach” was Mr Godfrey’s failure to complete a domestic abuse risk assessment form which he accepted with hindsight that he should have done, adding: “It was a serious failing.
“He reached a conclusion as to risk on the fly and without making a risk assessment and without asking Shana what risk she was at.
“Safety advice plainly should have been given to Shana. The failure to do so – because she was in a relationship with him (Lane) – holds no water with us and merely confirms that Mr Godfrey was not being diligent in the execution of his duties.”
Mr Berry said that Mr Godfrey breached the standard of equality and diversity by “stereotyping” Miss Grice – using the term used by the trial judge who jailed Lane for life.
“It affected how he dealt with Shana. It affected how he viewed her allegations. It affected whether he carried out a risk assessment. And it affected how he failed to give her safety advice.”
He said that Mr Godfrey did not treat Miss Grice fairly or impartially. She ended up being given a warning and fined for wasting police time.
Mr Berry said that Lane, who admitted assault, faced no further action, adding: “The imbalance in outcome, for which Mr Godfrey was responsible, was simply unfair.”
In Mr Godfrey’s view, Mr Berry said, “Lane became the victim and Shana the wrongdoer.
“Mr Godfrey’s conduct certainly undermines the reputation of the force.”
“When Mr Godfrey discovered Shana had misled him, in that moment he decided she was not deserving of the police’s protection.
“His failings were so serious that they would have justified his dismissal had he not retired.”
Mr Godfrey’s barrister Mark Aldred said that it was easy to lapse into thinking that, with the benefit of hindsight, an officer should have done things differently and better. But misconduct was a serious failure to carry out a positive duty.
He said that Mr Godfrey’s recommendation to take no further action could not be treated as misconduct, not least given that it was subject to a decision by a more senior colleague.
Professionals could reach a range of different decisions, even those that we might disagree with, he said, without those decisions amounting to misconduct.
Mr Aldred said that Mr Godfrey’s supervisor, Inspector Hazzard, had not been the subject of a misconduct hearing for deciding to take no further action against Lane.
It would therefore be wrong to find that Mr Godfrey, who followed Inspector Hazzard’s instructions, was guilty of misconduct.
And had Mr Godfrey not followed the decision by Inspector Hazzard to take no further action, that in itself would amount to misconduct.
There were layers of supervision, he said, including Sergeant Stone, who took the decision to issue a £90 fixed penalty notice fine to Miss Grice for wasting police time.
Mr Aldred said that Mr Godfrey had also been constrained by the law and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) code of conduct as well as the burden and standard of proof.
He also said that consent was a defence to harassment – and Lane had shown Mr Godfrey text messages showing that Miss Grice had asked him to come round on the occasion in question.
Mr Godfrey had even checked that the messages were genuinely from Miss Grice and found that the pair had been having a relationship behind her boyfriend’s back.
She had told the police a number of times that they were not and had never been in a relationship – not just in front of her official boyfriend and his family but on other occasions.
Mr Aldred said that Mr Godfrey had been diligent and done more than was necessary because of his concerns for Shana’s safety and while he openly admitted not filling in a key form, this in itself did not amount to gross misconduct.
The panel – chaired by solicitor Victoria Goodfellow, sitting with lay member Richard Lingard and Superintendent James Collis – retired to consider its verdict at lunchtime.