Stalking victims to join national policy roundtable in Parliament
During National Stalking Awareness Week (8-12th April), Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne is encouraging her PCC colleagues and national leads to come together, for the first time, and help provide victims of stalking with the greatest possible protection and support. She will be joined on the day by two female victims of stalking in Sussex whose experiences will help to inform the national recommendations made on the day.
In September 2018 Katy Bourne was the first PCC in the country to commission an independent inspection from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). This was to review progress on how stalking cases are dealt with locally and nationally and to identify recommended improvements. The findings from this inspection are due to be published this week (10th April) coinciding with National Stalking Awareness Week, and they will be presented and discussed during this meeting.
540% increase in reports of Stalking since 2016
Encouraging progress has been made in Sussex since the introduction by the PCC in 2015 of a local, specialist stalking support service, Veritas Justice. Over the last three years, reports of stalking and harassment in Sussex have risen by a staggering 540% and 700 officers have been trained, alongside those from the Crown Prosecution Service and local Magistrates, to better understand stalking cases locally. There is a clear commitment from senior officers to deliver an improved service for victims through the development of a comprehensive Stalking Improvement Plan.
The roundtable will be an opportunity to use HMICFRS findings to improve the police response nationally. It is vital that every Force across the country improves the way that they deal with this crime type and rapidly increases their understanding. Too many cases nationally have uncovered worrying failings at every stage, including reporting, investigation and prosecution.
Mrs Bourne comments ahead of the discussion:
“Statistically, victims of stalking will suffer 100 incidents or more before recognising and reporting to the police. The cumulative effect of these incidents can be frightening and debilitating so, when they do eventually report, it is vital that the police understand how to recognise the pattern of harmful behaviour rather than treat each incident in isolation and potentially miss the big picture.
“As a PCC I wanted to utilise one of the tools I have to bring independent, external scrutiny to policing. That is why I commissioned HMICFRS to conduct a thorough review of the way locally and nationally reports of stalking are investigated.
“This discussion will give policing and victims’ leads from across the country the opportunity to stand together against stalking and, for the first time ever, to talk openly about national improvements that need to be made in order to properly safeguard victims.
“It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of stalking as a crime so that more victims are able to join the dots and recognise for themselves that, if they are experiencing behaviour that is fixated, obsessive, unwanted or repeated, they are in fact being stalked.”
Dame Vera Baird QC, APCC Victims Portfolio said:
“This is a really good venture that has been arranged by Katy Bourne, who was the first Police & Crime Commissioner to commission an HMIC inspection of her Force to progress development on how stalking cases are dealt with. PCCs are leading the way on making public the more hidden crimes and this roundtable will be a good opportunity for a thorough discussion and to provide a clear pathway to support further victims of stalking.”
Jayne Bravery, stalked for 10 years by the father of her child, said:
“He slashed my tyres seventeen times; he slashed my mum and dad’s tyres, installed a tracker in my car and used my son as an emotional weapon against me. I wish that all of the individual incidents had been linked together and not treated as just a one-off which may have led to a harsher sentence. You think once the criminal trial has come to an end it will come to an end, but as a stalking victim it’s a lifelong fear that I do not believe will ever leave me. I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep. I fully support Katy Bourne and hope the recommendations made by HMICFRS will improve the police response nationally. The fact that we have a specialist support service in Sussex to help stalking victims makes the world of difference; they look at the whole picture and can give you advice throughout every step of the criminal justice system. The reality is that if we don’t increase local support services across the UK and better our understanding of this crime, people will die.”
Raine Lacy, stalked by ex-partner and a former University Chairman, said:
“I would wake up in the middle of the night with his hands around my neck, he would follow me in his car, forge letters from his solicitor to lure me back to his house and sent detailed descriptions of our private relations to my children. I have, and continue to be, deeply affected by these experiences as have my entire family. I’m joining Katy Bourne in Parliament on the 10th April because I would like to see victims of stalking believed by the police nationally from the earliest stages of reporting. I would like to see stalking cases investigated better and the understanding improved. I have been very lucky living in Sussex because I’ve had the support from Veritas Justice, our local support service that Katy funds, who have helped me immensely. The word needs to get out that people can refer themselves to these charities and the reality is that they need far more support to cover the rest of the country.”