Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs) in the Victim and Prisoners Bill



The National Stalking Consortium welcomed the announcement that the Government would introduce a Victims Bill. Legislation foregrounding the voices and rights of victims to access appropriate support has the potential to transform victim experience of navigating the criminal justice system - particularly in the context of stalking, which is highly complex and poorly understood by statutory agencies.

The National Stalking Consortium, which is comprised of 21 specialist stalking services and academics, wishes to highlight our concerns about the absence of references to Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs) as a key victim support service alongside IDVAs and ISVAs.

We recommend that the Bill makes specific reference to Independent Stalking Advocates by updating Section 12 of the Bill to include ‘stalking services’ as a relevant victim support service and that commitments are made to issue guidance on this role, as well as on IDVAs and ISVAs.


What is stalking?

Stalking is a highly complex crime. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust defines stalking as a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim. Stalking can include many types of unwanted behaviour such as regularly sending flowers or gifts, repeated or malicious communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault.

Stalking is a crime of psychological terror and can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, paranoia, self-harm and eating disorders. A recent study demonstrated that 78% of stalking victims experience symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The risk of harm stalking carries as a particular and distinct offence cannot be overstated; stalking behaviours were present in 94% of homicide cases in one study. Victims experience prolonged periods of victimisation, often experiencing over 100 incidents before they report.

Professionals across criminal justice and other agencies lack specific training and understanding of stalking and often patterns of obsessive, controlling behaviour which when seen as individual occurrences may not appear to constitute criminal conduct. This has severe impacts on the delivery of justice for victims: in 2019-20 there were over 1.5 million estimated victims of stalking, but just 3,506 stalkers were charged. Only 304 received custodial sentences. In 2021-22 there was a 20% rise in cases of stalking to 1.8 million victims, and 98,863 stalking reports were made to the police. However this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, and with the vast majority of stalkers not facing criminal repercussions, there is a clear need for targeted policy to deliver better justice and victim support.


What are Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs)?

Independent Stalking Advocates support victims through the criminal justice process by helping them understand their rights, log evidence, apply for stalking protection orders, and stay up to date on their case. In many cases, stalking advocates represent the victim when dealing with the police, courts, solicitors, and other professionals within the criminal justice system. They also provide vital emotional support and help victims by assessing risk, creating safety plans, and empowering them to take the next steps.

Our research Bridging the Gap: A stalking advocate for every victim clearly demonstrates the value ISAs bring, with 90% of victims saying their ISAC helped them to navigate the criminal justice system. Approximately one in four respondents who were supported by a stalking advocate saw their stalkers convicted. This is substantially better than the published rates for England and Wales where only one in 1,000 stalkers are convicted. It is incredibly difficult and rare for victims to reach this stage in their journey, and these results demonstrate that stalking advocates drastically improve victims’ experiences when navigating the criminal justice system.

While dedicated stalking support services have grown in recent years, unfortunately, the demand for stalking advocates still far exceeds current capacity, with many victims left to navigate this traumatic and dangerous crime on their own. For example, stalking services across the National Stalking Consortium supported a combined total of 12,406 stalking victims in 2021. There were 1.8 million stalking victims in 2022, which means that less than 1% of all victims are currently supported by specialist stalking advocates due to limited capacity and funding. Given that in 2021-22 just 5% of reported stalking cases resulted in a charge, and an estimated 2% of reports resulting in a conviction, ensuring victims of stalking do not fall through the gaps in support must be a government priority in this Bill.


The Victim and Prisoners Bill

Failing to properly account for stalking in policy compounds the risk to victims because it misses opportunities to prevent the escalation of violence. We are therefore concerned that the Bill makes no specific reference to the crime. Explicitly acknowledging the specific characteristics of specialist stalking services will ensure victims are not excluded from the right to safety and support.

The Victims and Prisoners Bill includes definitions for Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs), and states that the Secretary of State “must” issue guidance on these roles. The National Stalking Consortium welcomes the decision to elevate the importance and understanding of these roles. While IDVAs and ISVAs do vitally important work for their specific victim groups, they are not stalking specialists. Stalking is a complex crime, and victims must be supported by specialist advocates who have expertise in the area.


Including Provision for Victims of Stalking via Inclusion of ISAs

At present, the Bill neglects to include a definition for Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs). Given the fact that stalking is often misunderstood by criminal justice agencies, victims of stalking will once again fall through gaps in support if explicit reference to their needs is not made. ISAs are trained specialists who provide victims with expert advice and support during a period of crisis, often when the response from the criminal justice system or other agencies fails to address it.

Stalking advocates support victims in a holistic way to help them manage and cope with their situation and to recover from abuse. They carry out risk assessments and ensure that safety plans are put in place to protect victims and those around them, including any dependents, from further harm.

Unfortunately, ISAs are under-utilised. Our research demonstrates that:

  • 77% of stalking victims did not access an ISA;
  • 69% accessed no advocacy at all;
  • 4% accessed support from a non-specialist service, such as and IDVA or ISVA;
  • Just 15% of victims were referred to a stalking advocate by the police, further demonstrating low levels of understanding of stalking within criminal justice agencies.


The guidance which the Secretary of State commits to issue about these roles should include a definition of ISAs and guidance on the services they provide, as well as funding to support this provision and information about referral pathways. It should particularly highlight that police should inform every victim of stalking to an ISA when they report a stalking offence. The National Stalking Consortium would welcome the opportunity to advise on the definition of an ISA for the Bill.

Finally, we remain concerned about the lack of commitment to ringfenced funding for ISAs alongside funding for ISVAs and IDVAs. The government has committed £154m to quadruple victim services budget, including provision of IDVAs and ISVAs, by the end of 2024/25. However, without the inclusion of ISAs in relevant legislation, it is unclear if any significant proportion of this funding will be directed towards victims of stalking through the specialist service they require.

In 2021, 98,863 victims reported stalking to the police. £10m of funding for that year would have provided every victim with support from an ISA. We therefore recommend that any funding packages outlined for the provision of IDVAs, ISVAs and ISAs ringfences £10m per year to provide specialist stalking services.


Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Action Against Stalking
Aurora New Dawn
Alice Ruggles Trust
Alison Bird
Black Country Women’s Aid
Hamish Brown MBE
Changing Pathways
Fylde Coast Women’s Aid
Hollie Gazzard Trust
Professor Carsten Maple
Tracey Morgan
Protection Against Stalking
Chris Shelley, National Stalking Consortium Chair
Dr. Emma Short
The YOU Trust
Veritas Justice
Women’s Aid Leicestershire
Claire Waxman, London Victim’s Commissioner