Dorset Police: Failing on Gender-based Violence

It’s not just the Metropolitan Police who are failing survivors so as part of our work for these 16 days of global action against gender-based violence, we’ve produced this short expose on Dorset Police.

Justice for Gaia has spoken out publicly about our local force’s concerning failure to provide survivors with the specialist support they need and effectively prosecute sexual violence in our local area. Dorset Police has one of the UK’s worst conviction rates and no specialist rape unit. In 2020 they only pressed charges in 28 of the 782 rape reports they received. According to data obtained by Justice for Gaia via a Freedom of Information request, of 2058 sexual offences recorded by the Dorset Police 2019-2020, only 46 resulted in criminal charges.

* Content Warning: contains descriptions of assault and sexual violence *

In Brief

Click here to access an interactive map of sexual and violent crime in the Dorset area. These are the most frequently reported crimes in many Dorset towns. 

In Detail

Dorset Police civil servant jailed for grooming underage girls online

A FORMER civil servant who worked for the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner has been jailed for repeatedly engaging in sexual communications with two underage ‘girls’.

Jason Rory Samuel Mumford, aged 47, thought he was messaging a 12-year-old girl named ‘Toby’ and a 13-year-old girl named ‘Paris’ – sending them videos of himself performing sexual acts and also inviting them to perform lewd acts on themselves.

Dorset Police office to face gross misconduct charge related to Sarah Everard investigation

October 2021 – The officer posted details of an interview given by Couzens before he pled guilty to the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, which the police watchdog says may “have brought discredit on the police service and potentially interfered with the course of justice.”

Dorset Police officer jailed after strangling a woman to death 

October 2020 – The trial heard the injuries would have resulted from significant force to the neck for a minimum 10 to 30 seconds and possibly longer. As a “trained and experienced” road traffic police officer, Brehmer would have known Parry was seriously injured yet did nothing to help her, the judge said. He could not have thought, as he said in his police interview, she was “simply taking a breath”, the judge added. “You must have known that her body had gone limp after your assault on her. Before you walked to the car park entrance you must have seen how she was hanging half out of the car.”

Parry had “fought hard” against Brehmer, “if only for a short while”. Brehmer had stabbed himself three times with a penknife. The judge said he had sought at the scene to blame Parry for stabbing him, lying to police and others at the time. “These lies were in my view particularly serious,” the judge added, given Brehmer’s job. 

Dorset Police inspector Billy Bulloch guilty of gross misconduct

May 2020 – AN INSPECTOR carried out a “fundamental betrayal” to the public and policing when he abused his position as an officer to engage in sexual activity with members of the public and Dorset Police.

Hairdresser, 44, who was killed by her ex in her salon was ‘let down’ by police who took her phone and left her an easy target, coroner says

February 2020 – “The family of hairdresser Katrina O’Hara today slammed the police for their ‘serious failings’ that allowed her violent ex-boyfriend to murder her. Ms O’Hara’s three children said they will ‘always feel let down’ by police who they suggested had brushed their mother’s fears about Stuart Thomas ‘under the carpet’.” 

Married police detective, 41, is sacked after sexually assaulting unwilling female colleague in her own home and having ‘inappropriate contact’ with her

February 2020 – The most serious allegation involved the officer turning up at the woman’s flat unannounced where he sexually assaulted her. After being let in he grabbed hold of the woman, kissed her and then lifted her up onto the breakfast bar. He then removed her top and bra, touched her breasts and ‘dry humped’ her. The woman feared the detective would rape her.

Two Dorset Police officers found guilty of gross misconduct 

January 2020 – When the officers arrived they discovered the woman was at the address with a man who was prevented from contacting her and from being at the address by the conditions of a non-molestation order. The man was liable to be arrested if found in breach of the order.

The officers spoke with the woman and the man at the address and made the decision not to arrest forming the view that there was no risk to the woman. The police log report following the officer’s attendance at the address was updated by PC White with false and inaccurate information. It recorded that the man was not present at the address.

13 Dorset Police staff arrested between 2015 and 2019 

August 2019 – A study by Newsquest’s data investigations unit found that 13 officers or members of staff were arrested in Dorset between May 2015 and 2019. Rape, burglary and assault are among the crimes employees were apprehended over, the investigation found. However, of 13 arrests, nine cases (69 per cent) were dropped and the employee faced no criminal or disciplinary action.

Sharon Perrett murder: Police ‘stopped calling abuse victim’

June 2019 – Police stopped trying to call an abuse victim shortly before she was murdered by her partner because her phone was off, an inquiry has found. Sharon Perrett, 37, was beaten to death by Daniel O’Malley-Keyes at her home in Christchurch, Dorset, in August.

Thousands of police officers and staff ‘not properly vetted’

February 2019 – BBC 5 Live Investigates spoke to Yvonne, not her real name, who was a long-term victim of domestic violence. After her husband attacked both her and her daughter during an incident in 2013, she called 999. When Dorset Police came to her home, one of the attending officers began to groom Yvonne. “He said a beautiful woman like you shouldn’t be treated like this. He started texting me, complimenting me, he was very persuasive,” she told the BBC.

Yvonne and the Dorset PC had a sexual relationship over the next six months, but she says she felt taken advantage of and used. She ended the affair, but says the officer would continue to come to her home unannounced, wearing his police uniform.

“I felt threatened. He said if anyone found out, the court case (for her husband’s domestic violence) would have to start all over again.”

Criticism for Dorset Police over way it investigates some offences 

December 2014 – Due to a backlog of cases in the Safeguarding Referral Unit the HMIC believed this meant ‘potentially vulnerable victims were either waiting an unacceptable time for services or missed altogether’, and because of concern that the Force’s definition of vulnerability was too narrow.

BREAKING NEWS: search officer “disciplined” as we call for wider change and mark 4 years 🌹🕯️🌹


🌹 Take action here
🌹 Catch up on the latest here

November 2021 marks 4 years since we lost Gaia. When we spoke out on 25th (World Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) about systemic failures in how the justice system engages with survivors, Dorset Police announced the “disciplining” of a Dorset Police officer involved in the search for Gaia, saying he had been given a “final written warning.”

The family was devastated to learn that these proceedings had taken place behind closed doors, denying us the right to be present, make eye contact, try and understand how things could have gone so wrong and perhaps to speak about the consequences, which left us with a lifetime of grief over an unspeakable loss that will never heal. We feel very let down. It’s another example of Dorset Police saying one thing and doing another.

#16days #16DaysOfActivism #16daysofActivism2021 #16DaysOfActivismAgainstGenderBasedViolence #OrangeTheWorld #JusticeForGaia #JusticeForAllOfUs

Press release: Anniversary Of Gaia Pope’s Disappearance Marked By Call For Connor Hayes Witnesses & Survivors To Come Forward To The Centre For Women’s Justice

  • The Centre for Women’s Justice invites confidential testimony from witnesses and survivors of prolific sex offender Connor Hayes. 
  • Hayes, from Bournemouth, was repeatedly imprisoned and re-released for separate sex offences after Gaia’s rape allegation against him was dropped by Dorset Police. 
  • Dorset Police has one of the UK’s worst prosecution rates for sexual offences, charging cases in just 46 of the 2058 recorded 2019-2020.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) has issued a call for anyone who was victimised by or witness to crimes committed by sex offender Connor Hayes to come forward. This marks the fourth anniversary of the disappearance and death of teenager Gaia Pope, who made an allegation of rape against Hayes in December 2015. The case was quickly dropped by Dorset Police however Hayes, from Bournemouth, was subsequently imprisoned, released and imprisoned again for separate sex offences

Hayes made threats against Gaia’s life and repeated attempts to contact her. Gaia’s family say that the trauma this caused alongside the police failure to prosecute her case and fears other women and girls were at risk, was a crucial factor in the teenager’s health challenges, disappearance and death. 

Despite an explosion in sexual offence reporting, nationally less than 1 in 60 rape cases lead to criminal charges. Even in this context, Dorset Police has one of the worst charging rates in the UK. According to data obtained via a Freedom of Information request (1) from Justice for Gaia, of 2058 sexual offences recorded by the force 2019-2020, only 46 led to charges. 

CWJ therefore joins Justice for Gaia in raising concerns around Dorset Police’s record on sexual offences and gender-based violence. Last year a Dorset Police officer strangled a woman to death and 2015-2019 13 other officers were arrested for crimes including rape and assault, while another Dorset Police officer now faces gross misconduct charges related to the investigation into Sarah Everard’s murder. The force is also one of 17 where concerns have been raised about their failure to establish a rape and serious sexual offences unit. 

A full inquest into Gaia’s death will begin in Dorset in April 2022. Senior Dorset Coroner Rachael Griffin has said: “It is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death. I am satisfied there has been an arguable breach of the obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

CWJ, a legal charity that holds the state accountable for violence against women and girls, are supporting the Justice for Gaia campaign and invites anyone who has been a victim or can provide useful evidence about Connor Hayes’ sexual offending to come forward. Please email us at info@centreforwomensjustice.org.uk providing reference to Connor Hayes. 

Harriet Wistrich, co-founder, Centre for Women’s Justice, says: “The process of reporting rape and supporting a police investigation can be extremely traumatic. Most women who report do so to prevent harm to others. When police fail, this can be devastating. I have no doubt Gaia’s deterioration in mental health was at least in part caused by her learning of the extent of police failures that allowed Hayes to continue to offend. CWJ are happy to assist the Justice for Gaia campaign in their search for justice and to raise awareness of the impact of criminal justice failings in the investigation of rape.”

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia’s cousin, says: “Like millions of women across the UK we have lost faith in the police so we are deeply grateful to the Centre for Women’s Justice for providing a safe alternative for people to come forward. Now is the time to speak out against abusers and police failures. If you have any information about Connor Hayes’ crimes, please speak up. There is no justice that can bring our darling Gaia back to us but we will not sit back while a whole generation is failed by those meant to protect us. It’s time to make a change.” 

(1) Freedom of Information request data is available upon request.

Press Release: Independent Medical Experts called at today’s Pre-Inquest Review

  • Pre-Inquest Review Hearing on the disappearance and death of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope was held today at Bournemouth Town Hall.
  • Gaia’s family believe she died due to failings by police and mental health services following an incident of rape. 
  • The Coroner has confirmed that she will now instruct two independent medical experts to provide opinions on Gaia’s care ahead of the full inquest in April 2022.

Wednesday 19 May: inquest proceedings into the death of 19-year-old Gaia Pope from Swanage resumed today with a Pre-Inquest Review hearing at Bournemouth Town Hall. Senior coroner for Dorset Rachael Griffin has confirmed that she will now be instructing two independent medical experts to provide opinions regarding the adequacy of the epilepsy care Gaia received as well as another expert to comment on the sufficiency of this care in light of Gaia’s mental health difficulties.

It was also confirmed that the family will be allowed to show the jury an innovative video multimedia ‘pen portrait’ of Gaia at the inquest which is due to run for three months from 24 April 2022.

Gaia approached Dorset Police in December 2015 to report she had been raped by a known sex offender. Dorset Police dropped Gaia’s case, which preceded a decline in her mental and physical health (Gaia suffered from epilepsy and post-traumatic stress.) Following several hospitalisations Gaia disappeared on 7 November 2017 and following an enormous police search and community effort to find her, after eleven days her body was recovered by which point she had died of hypothermia.

Her family say vital questions about Gaia’s death – and the adequacy of local support services – remain unanswered. With 82 reports per conviction in 2018, Dorset Police has one of the worst conviction rates for rape in the UK. The county also has a significantly higher rates of suicides and A&E admissions due to self harm compared to the national average and the family were devastated to learn in September 2020 that Gaia was sexually harassed by another patient while under section at St Anne’s Hospital, after which no safeguarding referral was made.

Natasha Pope, Gaia’s mum, says: “This long drawn out process is difficult for us to bear but we are confident that progress is being made. We want to make sure our tragic loss leads to positive change for others in our community. To this end Gaia has already become a formidable force. Only a glimmer of light is required to break through the darkness.”

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia’s cousin, says: “As a survivor Gaia was denied justice from the police and support from the NHS. What connects these things is a culture, one that says if the effects of ill health or abuse make it harder for us to stand up for ourselves then our rights don’t matter. There are far too many bereaved families in this country who know this to be true. We want justice for all of them. We want to live in a world where hospitals take care of us and the police protect us. It’s not much to ask.”

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice which is supporting the family, says: “The road to justice for Gaia is proving to be a long and difficult one, but her family and friends remain determined, as do their many allies. After Sarah Everard, women’s confidence in the police is at an all time low and many will be following Gaia’s story as a measure of what justice the state can offer survivors – and what needs to change to save lives like Gaia’s.”

Lucy McKay, on behalf of the charity INQUEST, says: “This hearing comes a time of increased public concern around gendered violence and the police response to missing people, following the murder of Sarah Everard and a number of high profile cases. The scrutiny the inquest process provides in examining the death of Gaia Pope is vital. Not only to ensure the family can access the truth about what happened, and hopefully get some justice and accountability, but also in the public interest to ensure changes are made to protect lives in future.”

Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, attendance at the hearing today was limited. Members of the public are invited to show support online instead using the hashtag #JusticeForGaia. 

***

Please respect the privacy of Gaia’s family and friends at this time and ensure all press enquiries go through the stated channels. You can follow the family’s Justice for Gaia campaign on Facebook, Instagram and twitter @JusticeForGaia and find out more via their website. 

Inquest dates & potential new evidence

BREAKING NEWS 📢 Today has been hellish as always but against all odds and opponents we are still kicking butt. After losing our inquest dates due to Covid, we’re relieved to announce that Gaia’s inquest is back on and set to begin on 🔥 25 April 2022 🔥 It’s agonising waiting but that’s a small price to pay for the full and fearless inquest that Gaia – and our community – deserves. 🎊🙌🎊

In another major win, the coroner also agreed to call an independent, expert witness – rather than one picked by the Healthcare Trust – to speak on the quality of care she received and the link between her epilepsy and mental health. ⚕️ She and we hope that doing so may help us prevent future deaths – which is what matters most to us. 🌹🕯️🌹 We were also told new evidence may have come to light from the IOPC but we don’t have any more information yet. That’s extremely difficult but we hope to know more soon.

Thanks as always to our incredible legal team spearheaded by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and everyone else who’s taken or is taking action for us. 🙏 Find out how you can help here: https://justiceforgaia.com/help

There are still many questions unanswered and stones unturned but at least now we have a plan of action and an inquest that will hopefully be accessible to the press and the public. With your support & Gaia working her magic for us somewhere ✨✨✨ we will have answers, we will have justice and we will have change. ⚖️ #JusticeForGaia

Press Release: Gaia Pope family release search guide for loved ones of missing people on third anniversary of teenager’s death

  • Gaia’s Guide: a Community Organising Guide to Help Keep Missing People Safe has been produced in memory of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope, who went missing on 7 November 2017 and whose body was discovered three years ago today.
  • Gaia Pope’s disappearance made national headlines in 2017 with thousands of people joining the public effort to find her. 
  • From today the guide, backed by Missing People and designed for friends and family when someone disappears, will be available to download online for free. 

The family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope have today released Gaia’s Guide: a Community Organising Guide to Help Keep Missing People Safe, three years to the day since the 19-year-old’s body was found on a coastal path near her hometown of Swanage in Dorset. Pathologists found that Gaia died from hypothermia and the inquest is due to take place in May 2021. Senior Coroner for Dorset Rachael Griffin has stated “it is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death.” 

After her disappearance on 7 November 2017 Gaia’s story made national headlines with hundreds of volunteers joining the search and thousands taking action online, thanks to community organising efforts led by friends and family. Gaia’s Guide provides step-by-step guidance to mobilise and support a community response when someone goes missing, covering everything from how to search search to engaging with the press and police. The guide is now available to download free from justiceforgaia.com as well as on the new Missing People website.

Gaia’s twin sister Maya Pope-Sutherland, says: When Gaia went missing I didn’t know what to do, none of us knew what to do. We knew with public backing and attention the police would have to do something but I didnt know how to get the word out. If it wasn’t for Marienna and all the volunteers I think we’d still be searching. We want to offer the guide so families know what to do. When someone you love disappears it’s hard to even think straight. Hopefully Gaia’s Guide will help.” 

Gaia’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann, who produced the guide, says: “Gaia’s Guide has been a labour of love for her. Though in cases like Gaia’s community action can be the difference between life and death, shockingly there are no national police procedures informing families what they can expect. That needs to change. Meanwhile, going back over what happened hasn’t been easy but it’s worth it if Gaia’s Guide can help other families through that nightmare and bring even one missing person to safety.”

Remi Arnold, Family Support Manager at Missing People, says: “It’s heart warming to see something good come from such a tragic event. There is something very powerful about family members using their own experiences to help and support others. We’re pleased to include this brilliant resource on our website. Gaia’s family should feel proud of this great work; it’s a wonderful way to honour her memory.”

Jane Hunter, Senior Research and Impact Manager at Missing People, said: Gaia’s guide is an amazing resource, not only because it’s so informative but because it’s been made with such thoughtful consideration towards the missing person themselves as well as those affected. What a great thing for her family to want to do to help others.” 

Someone is reported missing in the UK every 90 seconds. That’s 180,000 people a year and rising. For example, there has been a 77 percent increase in London alone since 2010. Gaia’s Guide reports that people from low income or Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and those with physical or mental health conditions are most at risk, while government austerity cuts have crippled the health and social care services people rely on when at their most vulnerable, in time of illness, trauma or financial difficulty. 

⌛ 3 Years Today ⌛

Gaia disappeared three years ago today. As we mark the eleven days of her disappearance, a time that is so painful for the family, we want to thank all those those helping us make it through, especially George Julian, who’s helping people Get To Know Gaia this week and everyone who has shown their support over the years either by taking a solidarity picture, lighting a remembrance candle or producing some Art for Gaia. With each gesture like this, we feel less alone and find a little more strength to carry on towards truth and justice for her. Thank you.

To find out how you can help, click here.

Our statement outside court 🌹⚖️🌹 (Sep 2020)

At Gaia’s pre-inquest review hearing on 15 September 2020 we took two more important steps towards #JusticeForGaia and it’s the most we’ve been able to say so far about what happened to her. Here, Gaia’s twin sister Maya speaks alongside her cousin Marienna.

“We are determined to do all in our power to make sure your family never has to stand where we stand today, fighting for justice for someone who’s been taken from you and who can never be replaced.”

Huge thanks to our amazing legal team for all their hard work, also INQUEST, Rape Crisis and Centre for Women’s Justice as well as all the friends who came today or found a way to show support online. (Please keep it coming, it keeps us going…)

Press Release: Gaia Pope inquest resumes, family to appear in court

  • Pre-Inquest Review Hearing on the disappearance and death of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope to be held 1pm on Tues 15 September at Bournemouth Town Hall.
  • Gaia’s family believe she died due to failings by police and mental health services following an incident of rape.
  • Provisions have been made for the press to attend the hearing in person and Gaia’s family will hold a short press conference immediately afterwards on the steps.

14 September: Inquest proceedings into the death of 19-year-old Gaia Pope-Sutherland from Swanage will resume with a Pre-Inquest Review hearing at 1pm on Tues 15 September at Bournemouth Town Hall. The hearing will consider what issues the inquest will cover and when it will take place. Two hearings were cancelled over the summer and after almost three years her family say vital questions about Gaia’s death – and the adequacy of local support services – remain unanswered. 

With 82 reports per conviction in 2018, Dorset Police has the worst conviction rate for rape in the UK. The county also has a significantly higher prevalence of suicides and numbers of A&E admissions due to self harm, compared to the national average

Gaia’s family says: “As we approach the third anniversary of our beloved Gaia’s death, we remain without answers about what went wrong and why. This pandemic has only worsened the mental health crisis and the vulnerability of victims of gendered violence, so the matters involved in Justice for Gaia have never been more important. We need answers not just for our own broken hearts but for the community that worked so tirelessly to find Gaia and which continues to rely on the very services which let her fall between the cracks and die there.”

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice which is supporting the family, says: “For Gaia’s family, the wait is agonising. We hope progress will be made so that they can properly explore the multiple state failures in this case which contributed to her mental health breakdown and ultimately a preventable death, including a failure to adequately investigate her allegation of rape.” 

Deborah Coles, director, INQUEST, says: Nearly three years on, Gaia’s family and the public are still awaiting answers. The inquest must ensure any systemic failings can be identified and in the hope future deaths can be prevented. This is vital not least at a time of increasing concern about mental health of young people and lack of specialist services for women.” 

The Coroner has secured a room within the Town Hall for press and observers so that the proceedings can be followed. The room has capacity for 20 people. There is no facility for remote attendance so members of the press wishing to follow proceedings must attend in person. Gaia’s family will host a brief press conference on the front steps immediately after the hearing. Space is limited due to social distancing requirements so anyone hoping to attend should register as a matter of urgency via the contact information below. 

Since many will not be able to attend the hearing in person, members of the public are being invited to show support online using the hashtag #JusticeForGaia

Gaia granted full human rights inquest!

6 February: Gaia’s cousin Marienna speaks after the first hearing, where we were granted a full inquest under Article 2 (Right to Life) of the European Convention of Human Rights, with a jury to examine the role of of Dorset Police and healthcare services in Gaia’s death. 🌹

The coroner said: “It is arguable that acts or omissions by Dorset Police may have been or were contributory to Gaia’s death. I am satisfied there has been an arguable breach of the obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

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