As the inquest continues into the death of Gaia Pope a familiar pattern of failures by Dorset Police continue to emerge with Police dismissing calls from her aunt ,Talia, regarding her anxiety when a Wareham Police call handler said “This is the fifth call I’ve had. The last call ended with them talking absolute rubbish.”
This is a typical response from the Police as exemplified in the 2007 Fiona Pilkington case and highlighted in MIND’s 2013 report ‘At Risk Yet Dismissed’ where Police ignore, disbelieve and dismiss those who are suffering from mental health issues. The Dorset Police also only categorised her initially as a ‘medium risk’ and it was only upgraded by Police Inspector Andre Alkins, which was a “missed opportunity. The Dorset Police also failed to file a map drawn by her sister near dancing ledge which was a likely location for Gaia.
Reports have also highlighted the lack of co-ordination when PC Sean Mallon “failed to satisfactorily hand over the missing person investigation to ensure appropriate progress, failed to inform the night shift sergeant based in Poole responsible for policing Swanage overnight that Ms Pope was missing and failed to task Wareham night shift officers with carrying out any attempt to locate Ms Pope”.
There was also a Police Search Officer who was not familiar with the forces missing person policy. It just seems like a catalogue of errors that is typical of Dorset Police when dealing with those suffering from mental health issues.
Last year HUGS advocated on behalf of a lady called ‘Linda’ suffering from PTSD, who was being threatened by her neighbour and has been chronicled in the unpublished ‘Trouble in Broadchurch: As Dorset Police too slow to protect Vulnerable Woman ’ The Police only took action 10 months later when a video doorbell was installed by her Housing Association to capture images of threatening behaviour and eventually captured Jasmine Thompson stabbing on her neighbours front door (bridportnews.co.uk/news/19731289.threatening-woman-armed-knife-bridport-avoids-jail)
What doesn’t seem to be mentioned in any of the reporting is the role of the Dorset Police Public Protection Unit (PPU) . The role of the PPU is to Protect Vulnerable People (PVP) from human trafficking, sexual abuse, harassment and missing persons. They might be a victim of crime or suffer from a learning disability or a mental health issue. It would be interesting to know if the PPU were informed prior to Gaia Pope’s disappearance and whether or not the Dorset Police referred to them after Gaia’s disappearance.
When the PPU eventually got involved in Bridport they asked ’Linda’ to keep reporting it (which she was already doing to a PCSO) and they sent her a couple of window locks, which is not very helpful when somebody threatened to put a brick through her window, again caught on the doorbell video. HUGS formed the opinion that they were a completely ineffective intervention service.
Mental Health Services
Where the mental health services are concerned it was completely inexcusable for Dr Peter Jeffries not to sign-post Gaia to Steps to Well Being or other mental health services. Coincidentally HUGS made an official complaint about Dr Peter Jeffries earlier this year (Dorset NHS Complaints Ref: C21-22/3739) for failing to reply to HUGS regarding an urgent issue for a man HUGS is currently advocating on behalf of, who has tried to take his own life 4 times in the last 18 months. It has taken over six weeks for Dorset NHS to process this complaint.
In 2017 Katie Davies (now the US correspondent for The Independent) wrote a piece ten years on from the suicide of Fiona Pilkington and reported that there was still bullying and hate crime but the Police didn’t take it seriously enough. The Leicestershire Police only talked to people rather than prosecute and so it just continued.
‘Linda’ is not the only example in HUGS possession of how Dorset Police ignore, dismiss and disbelieve those suffering from mental health issues. Lessons have not been learnt.