14 September 2020

This press release was issued by JusticeforGaia

  • 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