7 October 2022

 Press release shared from Justice for Gaia campaign

  • Bereaved family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope to launch a new manifesto at a public press conference at Doughty Street Chambers, London on 12 October.
  • Campaigners say the inquest into Gaia’s death highlighted dangerous underfunding in frontline services and a culture of misogyny in policing and healthcare. It led to unprecedented coronial recommendations for the prevention of future deaths.
  • Panel will bring together leading legal and women’s rights campaigners to discuss Justice For Gaia and what needs to change to save lives like hers in the future.

Thursday 6 October: the bereaved family of Dorset teenager Gaia Pope, a rape survivor with epilepsy and severe post-traumatic stress whose disappearance hit national headlines in November 2017, will host a public press conference at 18.00 on Wednesday 12 October at Doughty Street Chambers, 54 Doughty Street, London, WC1N 2LS. Places can be booked via Eventbrite. 

This event will launch a new Justice for Gaia manifesto with demands for change in policing, health and social care to prevent future deaths. Attendees may put questions to speakers including Jayne Butler, CEO, Rape Crisis England & Wales; Deborah Coles, director, INQUEST; human rights campaigner Marcia Rigg, whose brother was killed in police custody; Verity Nevitt, survivor activist and sexual violence specialist; and Gaia’s cousin Marienna Pope-Weidemann who coordinates the Justice For Gaia campaign. They will reflect on the inquest into Gaia’s death, the wider public interest issues that her story speaks to and what needs to change to save lives like hers in future.

The inquest into Gaia’s death, one of the longest in British history, unearthed over fifty opportunities missed by police, healthcare and social services after Gaia reported she had been raped by a known child sex offender. The jury were prohibited from considering whether police failings contributed to Gaia’s death but did find that a failure to refer Gaia to mental health services when she was hospitalised in the weeks prior, may have contributed. The inquest produced an unprecedented number of regional and national coronial recommendations for the prevention of future deaths, with reports sent to the College of Policing, Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Dorset Police and Dorset Healthcare Trust amongst others.

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Gaia’s cousin, says: "The inquest into Gaia's death exposed stunning failures by frontline services but ultimately, it perpetuated and defended the culture that killed her: a toxic combination of austerity and misogyny that pollutes our public services, cripples our justice system and threatens our human rights."

Jayne Butler, CEO, Rape Crisis England & Wales, says: “The Rape Crisis movement has supported thousands of women and girls whose experiences have been similar to Gaia’s – those who have been failed by the system. As this campaign seeks justice for Gaia, it also demands justice for all women and girls who have been raped or sexually abused, acknowledging that the institutions in place to protect them can and must do better.”

Deborah Coles, director, INQUEST, says: “The voices of bereaved families are a powerful force. The Justice for Gaia campaign is an important part of a wider movement challenging violence against women and girls, and the way in which this intersects with policing, mental health, race, class and disability. INQUEST stands alongside this campaign in the fight for systemic change.”

In the hours before her disappearance, Gaia was in mental health crisis and trying to report an incident of sexual harassment to Dorset Police. An officer hung up on her, telling colleagues that she was “talking absolute rubbish” and that he believed it was a hoax. Her family were unable to access emergency mental health support because Gaia was not considered eligible for secondary care.

Gaia’s family have also launched a petition calling on Dorset Police to invest in a Rape & Serious Sexual Offenses (RASSO) Unit to support survivors and tackle what is now the most commonly reported offense in the county.

For more information, contact:

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Justice For Gaia

07380 194 788 / [email protected]