The Stalking Legislation – One Year On….full of sound and fury but what does it signify?

ImageThis week saw the anniversary of the introduction of new offences of stalking – which we believe are really important in protecting victims of domestic abuse and many others who suffer from stalking – both on and offline.  The anniversary was accompanied by a letter from the new DPP, Alison Saunders and ACC Garry Shewan about their plans to ensure that the criminal justice system addresses stalking effectively.

According to press reports this week, figures obtained under a freedom of information request showed that between November 2012, when stalking became a crime, and the end of June this year, 320 people were arrested across 30 police forces. Of those 189 were charged – so far six of those have been jailed and 27 given community disposals.

Compare that to the data that we collect directly from thousands of victims of domestic abuse which shows that 35% of those who disclosed harassment or stalking were suffering severe levels.  What do we mean by severe?  Our definition includes;

  • Constant/obsessive phone calls, texts or emails;
  • uninvited visits to home, workplace etc or loitering;
  • destroys or vandalises property;
  • pursues victim after separation, stalking;
  • threats of suicide/homicide to victim and other family members;
  • threats of sexual violence;
  • involvement of others in the stalking behaviour.

Imagine this happening to you – pretty scary and dangerous stuff.

So, we really welcome the call from both the police and the CPS to:

  Improve the awareness of frontline officers about how to risk assess stalking victims.
  Prosecute whenever possible rather than use of police information notices (otherwise known as harassment warnings)
  Ensure Victim Personal Statements are always taken and used in accordance with the Victim’s Code.
  Ensure that further evidence is secured if a charging decision has been taken on the threshold test, so that further evidence supports a charge on the Full Code Test that properly reflects the full criminality.
  Ensure that the charging decision is right first time. Stalking should be charged as a stalking offence rather than harassment.
  Proceed with the charge of stalking in court whenever possible rather than accept a plea to harassment. Acceptance of a plea of harassment rather than stalking by the defendant should only happen in particular circumstances and we should always seek the view of the victim before doing so.
  Ensure that when restraining orders are made in court, the victim’s circumstances are properly taken into account (e.g. all relevant addresses are included).
 
As practitioners, any feedback on how the stalking legislation is working in your area would be really helpful and we can pass it on to the CPS and to ACPO.  
 
These things can change a lot.  When we started CAADA in 2005, restraining orders (also part of the Protection from Harassment Act) were used in about 5% of cases.  They are now used in about 50% of cases and make a real difference to victim safety.  We see similar room for change in relation to stalking as an offence in its own right.  We are delighted to be working with Protection Against Stalking to deliver a one day training course on stalking – how to recognise it, how to respond and how to use this legislation to best effect.  Let’s hope that this time next year, we have added at least one or two noughts to the number of convictions.
 
(For more info about our training on stalking, go to http://www.caada.org.uk/learning_development/CPD-Stalking-Intro.htm )

One Comment to “The Stalking Legislation – One Year On….full of sound and fury but what does it signify?”

  1. I assisted in the Paladin review of the failings around stalking. In my experience as the head of a domestic violence department in a law firm the police rarely use the legislation and when they do the CPS reduce or drop the potential charges. We need a thorough training programme for the police, CPS, judiciary in relation to stalking and domestic abuse generally and until we do women will continue to be persecuted without redress, yours Rachel Horman

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