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Inquest into the death of Tracey Shelvey finds significant and gross failures

The inquest into the death of Tracey Shelvey finds significant and gross failures on the part of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Penine Care NHS Trust  and Rochdale Borough Council.

Tracy died on 3 February 2014 after falling from the roof of the Wheatsheaf shopping centre in Rochdale.  She had been told days earlier that Patrick Hall, a man she had accused of raping her had been acquitted of her rape and the rapes of a number of other women following a retrial.  Tracey had given evidence at both trials.  Before she fell whilst negotiators were trying to talk her down, Tracy complained about how the police had ‘screwed up the case’ and questioned how a man could ‘get away’ with six rapes.

Tracy was a ‘vulnerable adult’ who was well known to the local mental health service and Rochdale Borough Council. She was the fourth woman to report rape.  It was only after a fifth woman reported rape, that the Crown Prosecution Service made a decision to proceed with a prosecution.

The coroner today returned a conclusion of accident and made the following findings:

  • Tracey entered the car park of Wheatsheaf shopping centre with the intention of making a protest regarding the outcome of the rape trial, more likely than not with the intention of taking her own life.  After a lengthy intervention from negotiators, her foot was resting on a plastic conduit which gave way and she fell
  • The fact that there was no bespoke plan in place to support Tracy following the outcome of the criminal trial was a significant and gross failure
  • Neither the possibility nor consequences of an acquittal were broached adequately with Tracy. This was inexcusable and put the police officers delivering the news in an impossible situation
  • The lack of follow up by GMP to ten vulnerable adults who had given evidence at the trial was a significant and gross failure
  • The response by Rochdale Borough Council’s emergency front line service was wholly inadequate
  • There were significant and gross failings in the response by Rochdale Borough Council Adult Care Services between 14 November 2011 and Tracy’s death, including the failure to meaningfully respond to 10 vulnerable adult referrals from the police and the absence of any relevant training
  • There were several gross failures on the part of Penine Care NHS Trust, including the failure: to have contact with victim support; to investigate or address the disclosure of rape; to complete a care plan; to adequately supervise the care of Tracy

The coroner has indicated that he will make Prevention of Future Death reports and will determine this at a separate hearing in early January 2016.

The coroner concluded with the following words to Tracy’s family:

“The fact that you have remained remarkably dignified over such a difficult process amazes me. I cannot recall a case that I have dealt with in the past that has resulted in so many significant changes by so many agencies. I am sure you will continue to remember Tracy for all her qualities. The fact that she will be remembered, I hope, for changing the circumstances and support that will remain for so many others, will be a lasting and enduring testament to Tracy”.

Family of Tracy Shelvey said:

“The family would like to thank the coroner and welcome his thorough exploration of the issues and the powerful findings reached today.  We welcome his sincere and empathetic approach which has enabled us to get through this very distressing process. Tracy was a much loved mother, sister, friend, daughter and granddaughter who was a good person and touched all our hearts.

We welcome the coroner’s recognition that despite this tragedy, significant changes have taken place which it is hoped will help victims in the future.

We hope that Tracy is remembered above all as the happy chatty person that she was.”

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“This case illustrates a need for national learning from the damning failings found by the inquest about the treatment by state agencies of vulnerable rape complainants in the criminal justice system.

There is a lack of understanding of the impact the criminal justice process has on those suffering from mental ill health. What has been important in this sad case has been the scrutiny afforded by the coroner to the issues through the inquest process.”

INQUEST has been working with the family of Tracy Shelvey since her death in February 2014.  The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Harriet Wistrich from Birnberg Peirce Solicitors and Paul Clarke from Garden Court Chambers. Neither the family, their solicitors or INQUEST will be making any further comment at this stage.

For further information, please contact Shona Crallan 020 7263 1111 or shonacrallan@inquest.org.uk

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