Posts tagged ‘stalking’

November 30, 2013

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 )
March 8, 2012

Important Progress on Stalking

After many years of campaigning to change the law, Tricia Bernal and Carol Faruqui, both of whose daughters were killed by stalkers, are now on their way to achieving their goal.  I have met Tricia and Carol many times – they are tremendously courageous and positive – dedicated to avoiding for others, the terrible fate that befell their daughters.  They have spent many hours patiently explaining to me why this is so important. And slowly, slowly, I have caught up.  The Prime Minister announced this morning that the law will be changed to introduce a specific offence of stalking, with a potential custodial sentence of up to 5 years.

I think that there are a few reasons why this is important.  The first is about risk.  Many, many people are stalked and we are all familiar with how much easier it is to stalk someone now via email, Facebook, Twitter etc.  Of course, not every stalker is truly dangerous – although they might all be truly frightening.  But this focus on stalking will help highlight the types of stalking behaviour that are truly dangerous.  These include constant/obsessive phone calls, texts or emails; uninvited visits to home, workplace etc or loitering. It includes where someone destroys or vandalises property; pursues the victim after separation, or where the stalker threatens suicide/homicide to victim and other family members.  Other examples include where there are threats of sexual violence or involvement of others in the stalking behaviour.  Friends, family and professionals need to acknowledge the degree of risk involved in such behaviours because they are the ones that could result in a murder.

Secondly, the proposed changes to the legislation don’t limit who the stalker is and what relationship the victim has with them. Those of us working in the domestic abuse field have been heard to say: “It isn’t stalking, it is just part of the domestic abuse, part of the controlling behaviour.”  Whether we are right or wrong doesn’t matter – what is more important is that we must talk to victims and their families in language that they recognise.  Even in the most extreme controlling situations with many different forms of abuse, victims will very rarely describe themselves as suffering domestic abuse.  Stalking is language that we can all relate to – I very much hope that this helps to give people the confidence to come forward and seek help.  It is likely that a large percentage of cases will involve a current or former partner.  The current Protection from Harassment Act is the only piece of legislation in our field that recognises the impact of a course of conduct.  This is so important and it is really positive that we can build on it.

Finally, the proposed changes from the Select Committee include psychiatric assessments for stalkers.  Certainly, many of the cases I have looked at include what looks like someone with mental health problems to an untrained eye.  Combined with the stronger sentencing guidelines, these assessments appear crucial.

We have seen a huge surge in the use of restraining orders in cases of domestic abuse, and increasing use of the harassment legislation. Whoever the stalker is, let’s hope that these revisions will meet Tricia and Carol’s goals to keeping more victims safe in future.

July 21, 2011

Survey for victims of stalking

The charity Protection Against Stalking are running a survey to try and gather much needed information about the experience of victims of stalking.  If you have experienced stalking, or work with people who do, please consider completing the survey which will be used to make recommendations about improving the Criminal Justice response to this problem.

It can be accessed on:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WK2TGVJ

or on the Protection Against Stalking website

http://www.protectionagainststalking.org <http://www.protectionagainststalking.org

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March 16, 2011

Stalking Awareness Week 11-18 April

Coming soon is Stalking Awareness Week in which some of charities working in this area will draw attention to their belief that the law needs to be tightened in relation to stalking.  There has recently been an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for recognition of stalking (as opposed to harassment) being a specific offence and that more needs to be done to combat cyber-stalking.  It would be interesting to get your views on how seriously stalking is taken by agencies, especially the police, in your area and how effective you feel the Protection from Harassment Act is- certainly it is being used far more widely than was the case just a few years ago.

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