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Lancashire Police officer jailed for 16 years following assault on ex-girlfriend

A former Lancashire Police officer has been handed a 16-year sentence for attempted murder after a vicious attack on his ex-girlfriend. Judge Patrick Field described the culprit, James Riley, as having acted in a “jealous rage” after he discovered the victim, Ellie Moxham, was planning to begin a new relationship.

Riley, who was a serving Lancashire Police officer at the time of the attack, has subsequently been sacked. He is expected to serve at least two-thirds of his 16-year sentence behind bars.

This shocking case may serve to further damage public trust in the police, following several high-profile incidents of serving officers committing serious crimes against women. In this post, we’ll look more closely at details of the incident, and highlight the steps you can take if you have been a victim of inappropriate police behaviour.

Riley’s horrifying assault?

The distressing incident took place in November 2022, when Riley invited Moxham to see a gig at Manchester Apollo and persuaded her to come back to his hotel room at a Premier Inn on Brook Street. Riley hoped this would lead to a rekindling of their relationship, but when it became apparent Moxham was not interested, he subjected her to a brutal assault before leaving her for dead.

According to a report by the Manchester Evening News, before Riley left the hotel room, he called his mother, saying that he had “strangled” Moxham. He subsequently called an ambulance for Moxham before leaving in a taxi. He arrived at his parents’ house in the early hours of the following morning. His mother alerted the police to his presence, but Riley fled through the bathroom window. He was apprehended by police shortly afterwards.

Moxham was found unresponsive by paramedics and put into an induced coma upon her arrival at Manchester Royal Infirmary. She regained consciousness the following day but continues to struggle with the consequences. In her testimony at Riley’s trial, she described suffering from ongoing headaches and memory loss.

The aftermath?

Riley was charged with attempted murder and initially pleaded not guilty. However, in November 2023, a week before his trial was to begin, he changed his plea to guilty. He was sentenced on January 12th 2024.

In sentencing Riley, Judge Field described him as a “dangerous” offender and stressed that he would pose an ongoing risk to women. He said Riley had attacked Moxham with “murderous intent” and had been “consumed by uncontrollable anger”. This was in many respects in keeping with the previous relationship between the two, which the judge said had been “characterised by jealously and possessive behaviour” on Riley’s part. The judge also noted that Riley had called his parents and then waited twelve more minutes before eventually calling an ambulance.

In responding to the incident, Detective Sergeant Heidi Cullum from GMP’s Major Incident Team said “As police officers the public rightly expect the highest standards of behaviour and integrity. As a profession we are all hurt by Riley’s actions, which can never be justified.”

Detective Superintendent Zoe Mainey, Head of Professional Standards from Lancashire Police, struck a similar note, remarking “when our employees fall below the standards we and the public rightly expect, and erode the trust we depend upon to police effectively and with legitimacy, we will always act.”

While in this case Riley has been handed a significant prison term, it cannot help but contribute to a broader ongoing debate around what has been called a “culture of misogyny” in the police.

An ongoing challenge to public trust?

Unfortunately, this upsetting incident is far from the first case in which a serving police officer has committed a serious violent crime against a woman. The recent headlines generated by the crimes of David Carrick and Wayne Couzens have contributed to a wider debate over police behaviour and an ongoing erosion of public trust.

In March 2023, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released a landmark report on violence against women and girls (VAWG), in which it revealed that more than 1500 officers had been accused of VAWG during a six-month period from October 2021 to March 2022. Of the cases that had been resolved at the time of the report, only 13 had resulted in the officer involved being sacked.

In this context, debates over a culture of misogyny in the police have emerged and public confidence in the police has fallen. In the last eighteen months, polling has consistently shown that only half of people believe the police is doing a good job. This is significantly down from the more than three-quarters who believed this in late 2019.

Nevertheless, in these difficult circumstances, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to tolerate improper behaviour on the part of a police officer. If you are a victim of police misconduct, there are various steps you can take, including pursuing a civil action against the police.

What is police misconduct?

Police misconduct is a term used to describe cases where a police officer behaviour falls short of the standards expected of them, as specified by the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020. Given the role and responsibility that a police officer has, this is a serious issue. Examples of police misconduct include:

  • Excessive force
  • Wrongful arrest or detention
  • Unlawful stop and search
  • Trespass to your property
  • Assault and battery

In more extreme cases, this can constitute police gross misconduct. As we explain in our blog on police gross misconduct, in these cases the actions of the officer in question would justify their dismissal from the force.

To learn more about police misconduct, read our blog discussing specific examples of police misconduct cases. If you believe you have been a victim of police misconduct, read on to find out how you can seek compensation.

Can you seek compensation for police misconduct?

Police misconduct can have a devastating impact on those affected. It can lead to anything from physical injuries and reputational damage to ongoing emotional distress. But it’s important to know that there are steps you can take to ensure your suffering is acknowledged – and that includes seeking compensation.

As we explain in our blog “How do I make a complaint against the police?”, your first step is to complain directly to the force responsible. In more serious cases, the force themselves may then be required to pass the complaint on to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

However, neither the force responsible nor the IOPC can offer compensation because of your complaint. In order to secure compensation, you’ll need to pursue a civil action against the police. The best way to do this is to speak with an experienced solicitor who can evaluate your case and give you the support you need to achieve the best possible outcome.

HNK Solicitors can support your civil action against the police

The recent spate of news stories regarding police officers committing violent crimes against women has understandably played a role in undermining public trust in the police. However, it’s important to know that if you are a victim of police misconduct, there are steps you can take to redress this wrong. And that includes seeking compensation through a civil action against the police.

Here at HNK Solicitors, we’ve helped many of our clients to secure significant compensation through a civil action against the police. Our team of expert solicitors have an in-depth understanding of the relevant regulations, and can help to ensure that you get the result you deserve.

If you’ve been a victim of police misconduct, we offer free consultations to discuss your case and help you understand if you may be entitled to compensation. If we do think you are owed compensation, we can help you pursue a civil action against the police on a no-win, no-fee basis.

To look at some our of recent success stories, visit our case studies page. Or to get in touch and arrange your consultation, call us on 0151 668 0809, or email us at

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