A former police officer accused of misconduct after teenager Shana Grice was murdered by her ex-boyfriend has denied applying a stereotype that she could not be at risk from him due to them being sexually involved.
Trevor Godfrey, who retired from Sussex Police in December 2017 following nearly three decades’ service, said 19-year-old Ms Grice had initially lied about being in a secret relationship with older colleague Michael Lane as a “smokescreen” so her boyfriend Ashley Cooke did not find out.
Ms Grice was murdered at her home in Brighton on August 25 2016.
It later emerged that she had reported Lane to police five times in six months but was fined for wasting officers’ time after she came clean about their tryst.
No. It may be the case (applying stereotypes) for other people, I don't have those viewsTrevor Godfrey
The case was closed before her pleas for help were properly investigated.
Giving evidence on the second day of his misconduct hearing in Lewes, Mr Godfrey defended recommending to an inspector that no further action be taken against Lane in spring 2016 following an accusation of assault after he tried to grab her phone.
He said: “She (Ms Grice) lied to police three times. It was only right I advised her she cannot keep lying in police statements and getting people arrested for it.”
James Berry, counsel presenting the case against Mr Godfrey, also accused the former police officer of applying a stereotype to the case.
Mr Berry said: “There is a stereotype that if Person A is in a relationship with Person B, one cannot be at risk from the other. Do you agree with that?”
Mr Godfrey replied: “No. It may be the case (applying stereotypes) for other people, I don’t have those views.”
He added: “There was no history of violence between them, there was no evidence of violence, of risk, at that time.”
Pressing him on the matter, Mr Berry said: “You applied that stereotype to Shana, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t,” Mr Godfrey replied. “You are asking me to tell you the same thing, over and over again.”
Mr Godfrey said there was no sign of Ms Grice being harassed, something she previously accused Lane of, before admitting to police that him being outside her house late at night was because she had arranged the meeting behind the back of then-boyfriend Mr Cooke.
Mr Godfrey said: “She would be signing her texts (to Lane) with five kisses. This is not harassment. It was a smokescreen to disguise her affair.”
Mr Godfrey also said there was therefore “no reason” to supply Ms Grice with safety advice regarding her relationship with Lane.
He said: “She was in an active relationship with him for six months. I can honestly say, hand on heart, there was nothing there to suggest she was in any form of danger whatsoever.”
Lane, 27, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years after being convicted of her murder.
Mr Godfrey is the subject of a misconduct hearing after being accused of failing to adequately investigate allegations of harassment and stalking, and of failing to comply with Sussex Police policies regarding domestic abuse.
Summing up the case against Mr Godfrey, Mr Berry said the former officer “did not show the expected level of diligence” when dealing with Ms Grice’s allegation against Lane.
He said there was a “serious failing” in Mr Godfrey not filling out a risk assessment form following this incident.
He added: “Mr Godfrey applied the stereotype (of a person in a relationship not being at risk of harm from the other) to Shana’s statement because it affected how he viewed her, how he viewed her allegations, whether he thought he needed to carry out a risk assessment, and whether to give her safety advice.
“Mr Godfrey simply lost his impartiality and Lane became the victim and Shana became the wrong-doer.
“Everything Shana said carried no weight any more – even the things that were not in doubt.
“Mr Godfrey’s handling of this case did not represent the impartiality expected of a police officer.”
Representing Mr Godfrey, Mark Aldred said: “It is easy to lapse into: ‘The officer should have done, ought to have done, could have done it differently…’
“This is about gross misconduct – so there must be evidence or a positive duty to do something in a particular way.
“Decision-makers don’t make a decision in a vacuum.”
Regarding the issue of recommending no further action be taken against Lane when Lane grabbed Ms Grice’s telephone, Mr Aldred added his client was right to have consideration for whether any case alleging common assault would be undermined by her previously misleading police.
Ms Grice’s family have sat through every minute of the hearing, which started on Monday. It has been adjourned for the panel to consider its findings, which will be read later this afternoon.
Mr Godfrey could be placed on a barred list, meaning he cannot work for police again, if the panel finds allegations against him are proved.
In any case, he would still be allowed access to his pension unless in circumstances involving a criminal prosecution against him.