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Fedster

Lawyers win right to protect full identity of PC in disciplinary proceedings over woman murdered by stalker

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Fedster

Legal fight over how publicity could 'adversely affect' officer in case of Shana Grice who repeatedly reported stalker to police before she was killed.

Shana Grice: Died at the hands of stalker Michael Lane

Shana Grice: Died at the hands of stalker Michael Lane

Date - 10th May 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

 

A force has backed lawyers in protecting the full identity of an officer accused of ignoring a 19-year-old woman who repeatedly reported her stalker to police before she was murdered.

Disciplinary panel chairman Chiew Yin Jones has directed the Sussex Police misconduct hearing today to only refer to the officer by his rank and surname, PC Mills.

The officer's lawyers argued he would be “adversely affected” by publicity if his full name was released.

The Sussex force, which has brought the proceedings against PC Mills, supported this submission.

According to the Home Office, the chairman has a statutory power to make such a direction to the media under the Police (Conduct) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

However, the panel chairman’s direction will be challenged and a decision made later in the hearing after further legal submissions.

Last month Sussex Police, which apologised for “not having done the very best” it could in relation to the death of Shana Grice, confirmed two officers – one of whom has retired – were to attend a disciplinary hearing with a third called to internal misconduct proceedings.

Ms Grice reported her ex-boyfriend Michael Lane to the force five times in six months, but was fined for wasting police time.

On August 25, 2016, Lane slit her throat before trying to burn her body.

He was jailed for a minimum of 25 years for her murder in March 2017.

PC Mills – who resigned from the force last week – faces two discreditable conduct allegations in proceedings at force headquarters in Lewes on Friday.

The force said the officer failed to “adequately investigate allegations of harassment and stalking” just over a month before Ms Grice was killed on July 9, 2016.

During Lane’s trial, the court heard during this time he stole a key and crept into her room while she slept and followed her in a car.

PC Mills is also accused of failing to respond to reports made by Ms Grice days later on July 12.

Between July 13 and 15, he "failed to contact Ms Grice or update her regarding the reported incident", it is said.

On July 12, Ms Grice reported being followed in a car by Lane but no further action was taken, the trial heard.

Just two of 14 officers investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over Ms Grice’s death are to be made the subject of publicly held disciplinary proceedings. Both left the force before the hearings were due to take place.

PC Trevor Godfrey, who retired from duty in December 2017, was due to face allegations of discreditable conduct earlier in the week but the hearing was postponed until further notice, the force said.

The force claims on March 25, 2016, after interviewing Lane, PC Godfrey “concluded that Ms Grice was dishonest and failed to treat her as a victim, instead warning her about wasting police time”.

Next week a misconduct meeting for another police officer will be carried out in private.

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.

Her parents Sharon Grice and Richard Green, who are considering legal action against the force, said their daughter was treated “like a criminal” rather than being protected and she “paid for the police’s lack of training, care and poor attitude with her life”.

Their lawyer Andy Petherbridge, of Hudgell Solicitors, said individual officers still had “serious questions to answer about their conduct towards Shana” and her family wanted to attend the proceedings “to see what the officers themselves have got to say”.

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

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, called on police chiefs to take action to ensure “another woman is not murdered in this way”.

She added: “It’s extremely disappointing that the two police officers will not be serving officers when these proceedings go ahead.

“It remains extremely important that these proceedings are open to the public and that everybody can hear exactly what went wrong and who made what decision and what lessons can be learned.”

Suky Bhaker, acting chief executive of stalking charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “When failings by police, whether individual officers or more systematically across a force, allow stalking to continue and the risk to escalate, then those responsible for failing to protect the victim must be held to account.”

The force said it cannot comment ahead of the proceedings.

Last month, an independent report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found the force's approach to investigating stalking and harassment cases was not consistent or effective.

Inspectors made a string of recommendations on how improvements could be made by Sussex Police, which records the second highest number of stalking offences in England and Wales – doubling its total in the last 12 months.

In the last two years reports of stalking and harassment have increased by more than 40 per cent across England and Wales, HMICFRS said.

Research suggests two women are killed by a former or current partner every week across the country and stalking often escalates to murder, according to charities and campaigners.

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Lone Wolf
Posted (edited)
Quote

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, called on police chiefs to take action to ensure “another woman is not murdered in this way”.

She added: “It’s extremely disappointing that the two police officers will not be serving officers when these proceedings go ahead.

“It remains extremely important that these proceedings are open to the public and that everybody can hear exactly what went wrong and who made what decision and what lessons can be learned.”

It appears Miss Green doesn't fully understand the procedure for police misconduct. Is she suggesting that she would have preferred for the two officers to have kept their jobs (at the public's expense of course), and even potentially do further wrong in the meantime just so they can be subject to misconduct proceedings?

Edited by Fedster
Edited for ease of reading

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Fedster

Stalking probe officer's full name kept secret to protect 'family feelings' in landmark ruling

Panel chairman's 'legal precedent' backed by force while PCC remains silent.

ACC Nick May: Sussex Police 'absolutely supports the open process that has been played out'

ACC Nick May: Sussex Police 'absolutely supports the open process that has been played out' 

Date - 11th May 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
2 Comments2 Comments}

 

Policing today appeared to have closed ranks on a landmark ruling that protected the full identity of an officer accused of ignoring a 19-year-old woman who repeatedly reported her stalker to police before she was murdered.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Sussex officer argued giving the full name of ‘PC Mills’ would have an adverse effect on him and made the request with regard to the "feelings and the welfare" of his young family.

And Sussex Police – which brought the gross misconduct action against PC Mills at a disciplinary hearing at force headquarters in Lewes – supported the application in a bid to retain his privacy.

The ruling by disciplinary panel chairman Chiew Yin Jones is thought to have been the first of its kind and is understood to have potentially set a legal precedent.

Force solicitor Louise Ravenscroft told the misconduct hearing it was "not in the public interest" to fully identify the officer involved and added that it should be to PC Mills's "credit" that he did not ask for his full name to be withheld.

The restriction was granted by disciplinary panel chairman Mr Yin Jones – a CPS district Crown prosecutor who was appointed and funded by Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, who herself has spoken out about being a victim of stalking.

Ms Bourne has refused to comment on the hearing or the direction made by the panel to withhold the officer's full name.

The force initially decided to restrict the number of press entering the hearing – claiming there was not enough space – but eventually allowed all present representatives to attend proceedings.

The press argued there was "substantial public interest" in fully and openly reporting the proceedings and properly identifying the officer.

Media organisations argued the submissions did not meet the legal threshold for a restriction as they would not adversely affect the ability for the proceedings to go ahead.

Asked why the force supported the request, Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said after the hearing: "We respect the decision of the chairman.

"We absolutely support the open process that's been played out today.

"I think it's for the public to make up their own minds how they feel about this.

"Sussex Police goes along with the guidelines, we support the open process."

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