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December 10th 2020

Inquests

Coroner’s decision not to hold inquest into death of girl murdered by stalker ex-boyfriend challenged at Judicial Review

Vicky Richardson

Vicky Richardson

Manager, Civil Liberties

Coroner’s decision not to hold inquest into death of girl murdered by stalker ex-boyfriend challenged at Judicial Review

The family of a teenage girl murdered by a stalker ex-boyfriend have challenged a decision by a senior coroner not to hold a full inquest into her death.

The family of a teenage girl murdered by a stalker ex-boyfriend have challenged a decision by a senior coroner not to hold a full inquest into her death.

Shana Grice was 19 when she was killed by Michael Lane at her home in Brighton, East Sussex, in August 2016. She had reported Lane to officers at Sussex Police five times in the six months before her death, but was fined for wasting police time.

Lane was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years at Lewes Crown Court in March 2017 after being convicted of her murder. The sentencing judge said officers ‘stereotyped’ Miss Grice before her death and failed to take her reports seriously.

The actions of Sussex Police have since been the centre of investigations including misconduct procedures against officers, an Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation and a domestic homicide review, where a string of failings were identified.

However, as a result, senior coroner for Brighton and Hove, Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, ruled that the ‘function of an inquest’ had been discharged by the previous inquiries.

That decision was today challenged in the High Court at a Judicial Review launched by Hudgell Solicitors, who instructed Harriet Johnson and Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, to represent the family at the hearing.

Family denied opportunity to participate “meaningfully and effectively” in hearings

Ms Brimelow QC said the family of Miss Grice had still to now been denied the opportunity to participate “meaningfully and effectively” at a proper inquiry into what happened leading up to the death of their daughter, something an Article 2 Inquest would bring.

She said a “full, independent and focussed inquest” was necessary to consider whether Miss Grice’s death could have been avoided and “how to prevent a similar tragedy happening again”.

She said the context of Ms Grice’s murder needed to be considered, as it had emerged after her death that 12 other women were subjected to stalking and harassment by Lane in the months before her death.

“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,” she said.

“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 Ms Grice’s parents “did not have faith in the independence of the misconduct panels” as they were not able to participate and felt “intimidated” while attending, and have been left with “many painful questions”.

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.

Mr Justice Garnham will give his ruling at a later date.

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