Latest News GUEST BLOG: Out of sight – out of mind: Not in Northumbria! Written by Dame Vera Baird Let me be clear from the outset, here in Northumbria we take domestic violence and stalking seriously, I am committed to ensuring that Northumbria offers support and help to victims and my commitment during National Stalking Awareness Week is that we will continue to build on this service and I hope my blog below provides an assurance that this has always been the position in Northumbria. Like traditional stalking, many victims of cyber stalking are in abusive relationships with partners who are monitoring their behaviour. Some of this monitoring may be very obvious – such as when a victim is forced to hand over their mobile to have their texts or social media posts checked. But digital technologies can also enhance the controlling behaviour of a partner (or ex-partner) in less obvious ways – such as allowing them to install spyware that will help them to locate a mobile phone (and its user), listen in to its surroundings, access a log of calls made and receive and get copies of any messages or emails that have been sent - all without the victim’s knowledge or consent. Here in Northumbria, we’ve been working hard to respond to the issues raised since ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ was published, determined to lead the way and provide best service to victims. I secured funding from the Home Office VAWG transformation fund and in January 2018 this allowed Northumbria Police created a domestic abuse cyber stalking and harassment team. The Northumbria team is designed to help victims – both men and women - specifically of domestic abuse who are being abused and harassed by technological means. Initially operating on an 18 month pilot basis, they will be dealing with cases in the Sunderland area but also providing advice and guidance to officers in South Tyneside where cyber stalking is a feature of the case. The initiative also brings together a rape and domestic violence detective with cyber investigation specialists and we have recruited from our great local organisation Wearside Women in Need, an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor, who supports the victim, making sure everything is done in accordance with what she wants and provides civil assistance. Each morning the police team will check ALL domestic abuse reported incidents since they were last on duty for any elements of cyber stalking. This is to ensure that all potential lines of enquiry are being maximised in investigation. The detectives will use forensic analysis of social media, email and other online communications to identify patterns of behaviour, ultimately helping to safeguard victims from coming to further harm. My message to victims is do not hesitate to report this kind of crime – Cyber harassment is no less frightening and can be just as threatening as physical stalking. The team are here to help and are able to provide a first-class response. The officers and staff in this team fully understand the impact on victims and are incredibly skilled at protecting them whilst capturing the evidence to secure a prosecution. In fact, they’ve already brought charges against a number of offenders in the short time they have been operating. It’s through developments like this that we’ll be able to give victims of stalking the understanding, recognition and responsiveness they need. As we are in National Stalking Awareness Week, I’ll continue campaigning to make sure everyone knows about #ReportingStalking and that no one should live in fear of another person.