The family of Shana Grice have challenged a coroner’s decision not to hold a full inquest into her death.
Miss Grice was 19 when she was murdered in her Portslade home in August 2016 by a former boyfriend, Michael Lane, who had been stalking her.
The former Hove Park School student had reported Lane to Sussex Police five times in the six months before her death but she was fined for wasting police time.
Lane, now 31, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years at Lewes Crown Court in March 2017 after being convicted of her murder.
The trial judge, Sir Nicholas Green, known as Mr Justice Green, said that officers had “stereotyped” Miss Grice before her death and failed to take her reports seriously.
The actions of Sussex Police have since been the subject of other scrutiny, including misconduct procedures against officers, an Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation and a domestic homicide review. A number of failings have been identified.
To read the IOPC final report, click here.
As a result, Brighton and Hove coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said that the “function of an inquest” had been discharged by the previous inquiries.
So, on Thursday (10 December), Miss Grice’s parents, Sharon Grice and Richard Green, sought a judicial review of the coroner’s decision.
They want an “article 2” inquest – so called because of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights which says: “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.”
In the Crown Prosecution Service’s legal guidance to coroners, the CPS said: “Article 2 inquests are enhanced inquests held in cases where the state or ‘its agents’ have ‘failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk’ or where there has been a death in custody.”
Miss Grice’s parents are represented by Hudgell Solicitors, who instructed two barristers from Doughty Street Chambers – Harriet Johnson and Kirsty Brimelow – to speak for the family at the High Court hearing.
Ms Brimelow said that Miss Grice’s family had been denied the chance to participate “meaningfully and effectively” in a proper inquiry into what happened leading up to her death.
She said that a “full, independent and focused inquest” was necessary to consider whether Miss Grice’s death could have been avoided and “how to prevent a similar tragedy happening again”.
She also said that the context of Miss Grice’s murder ought to be considered because it had emerged after her death that Lane had stalked and harassed 12 other women.
Ms Brimelow said: “Ms Grice was only 19 years old. She was vulnerable. She attempted to access help and was cast as the wrongdoer by Sussex Police.
“She lost her life in a brutal and violent way. Her death was avoidable if Sussex Police had not acted as they did and had actually acted to protect her life.
“There are recorded failings by Sussex Police but little scrutiny of those in a senior position or of the culture of Sussex Police towards young women suffering stalking and harassment.
“It is in the public interest to have the widest possible exposure to the circumstances which led to Ms Grice’s murder.
“Ms Grice’s murder is a killing which took place due to positive decision-making by many officers in Sussex Police. They had a duty to protect her.”
Ms Brimelow said that Ms Grice’s parents “did not have faith in the independence of the misconduct panels”.
She said that they had not been able to participate, felt “intimidated” while attending and had been left with “many painful questions”.
Hudgell Solicitors said: “Just 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.
“One was found to have committed gross misconduct when he ignored Miss Grice’s repeated stalking reports and a less serious finding of misconduct was made against another in July last year.”
Jonathan Hough, representing the coroner, said: “The coroner understands the desire of the claimant to have her own advocate confront and challenge the officers who she reasonably considers failed her daughter.
“However, she did not consider that that was enough in law to justify resuming the inquest.
“Furthermore, if there were to be an inquest, there would inevitably be features of the process which would be acutely painful to the claimant.”
The judge, Sir Neil Garnham, also known as Mr Justice Garnham, will give his ruling at a later date.