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Police told not to hand out fixed penalty notices in stalking cases

The recommendation came after teenager Shana Grice was fined for wasting police time, just before she was murdered by an ex.

Nineteen-year-old Shana Grice was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite her repeated stalking reports (Family handout/PA)
Nineteen-year-old Shana Grice was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite her repeated stalking reports (Family handout/PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

Officers have been told not to hand out fixed penalty notices in stalking and harassment cases after teenager Shana Grice was fined for wasting police time before she was murdered.

The police watchdog issued the recommendation to Sussex Police in the wake of the 19-year-old’s killing at the hands of her ex-boyfriend after he spent months stalking and harassing her.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) initially said the recommendation was made to all forces but later clarified it had only asked Sussex Police to take such action.

The watchdog did not consider it necessary to order all forces not to issue fixed penalty notices to stalking victims as Sussex is thought to have been the only one to do so, it is understood.

The IOPC made a raft of recommendations to the force on Thursday when it published its final report into how officers handled Miss Grice’s complaints before she died.

These included telling the force to properly train staff, improve risk assessments, communicate better and use systems correctly.

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Michael Lane murdered Miss Grice after she repeatedly reported him to police (Sussex Police/PA)

The IOPC also issued national guidelines to chief constables of all police forces in England and Wales, advising all officers not to issue Police Information Notices (PINs) in stalking and harassment cases.

The warnings – which do not constitute legal action – can be handed out by officers to tell people their behaviour may be considered as harassment.

The guidance comes because the watchdog believes PINs are not fit for purpose or effective in tackling escalating behaviour and it hopes officers will consider taking tougher action instead, PA understands.

The College of Policing and National Police Chiefs Council have also been told to get forces to make sure officers and staff have the skills to do their jobs properly when investigating crime.

Miss Grice reported Michael Lane to officers five times in six months but was fined for wasting police time.

The case was closed before her pleas for help were properly investigated.

On August 25 2016, Lane slit her throat before trying to burn her body. He was jailed in 2017 for a minimum of 25 years.

The sentencing judge said officers “stereotyped” Miss Grice before her death and failed to take her reports seriously.

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.

Pc Jon Barry Mills was banned from ever working as a police officer again but will keep his pension.

His tribunal, held in his absence, found he committed gross misconduct when he ignored Miss Grice’s repeated stalking reports and his actions may have “ultimately contributed” to the circumstances of her death.

Former Pc Trevor Godfrey, who accused Miss Grice of wasting officers’ time five months before she was murdered, was told at his tribunal while his actions were serious, they did not amount to gross misconduct.

He retired before facing the misconduct proceedings but the finding meant he would not have been sacked had he still been a serving officer.

During the hearing Godfrey stood by his treatment of Miss Grice, which included making an 84-second phone call to tell her she would be fined for wasting police time over the harassment allegations. The decision was ratified by police bosses.

It is vitally important that as part of our work... shortcomings, be it in policies, systems or training, are identified and improved Sarah Green, IOPC

Ms Grice’s parents Sharon Grice and Richard Green described the hearing as “a sham”, claiming the tribunal’s panel allowed a “wholesale character assassination” of their daughter.

An unnamed sergeant who supervised the initial investigation on Lane was given a written warning after allegations against him were proven during a private misconduct meeting.

The IOPC decided this officer’s conduct did not warrant being discussed in a public hearing so recommended the matter was dealt with behind closed doors.

Three more officers and three staff have already been handed “management advice and further training”, while no further action will be taken over the other five officers investigated.

Earlier this year an independent report found the force’s approach to investigating stalking and harassment cases was not consistent or effective.

IOPC Regional Director Sarah Green said: “It is vitally important that as part of our work, good practice is recognised and shared, while shortcomings, be it in policies, systems or training, are identified and improved.”

Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Jon Savell said: “We deeply regret the tragic death of Shana Grice and have accepted that we made mistakes in this case”, adding that the force had “significantly improved” its response to victims.

PA

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