Suzy Lamplugh Trust welcomes the Private Members’ Bill on vexatious complaints which has been presented today. The Courts (Abuse of Process) Bill, which was introduced by Liz Saville Robert MP, aims to prevent stalkers and other abusive perpetrators from using the Civil and Family Courts to continue to traumatise their victims.

Through our work on the National Stalking Helpline, Suzy Lamplugh Trust repeatedly hears that stalking perpetrators have manipulated Civil and Family Court processes to continue to contact their victim even after a restraining order has been served. Victims tell us that this devious practice causes them a great deal of distress, and prevents them from recovering from the crime that they face.

Presenting the Bill, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“The purpose of this Bill is to limit the ability of perpetrators of primarily domestic abuse, stalking and harassment their ability to use – indeed misuse or abuse – family and civil courts as a cynical and calculated method to cause further distress and to exercise deliberate control over the actions of their victims.

“The Bill gives the court itself the power to dismiss any meritless applications where it is apparent that their purpose is to harass or distress victims under the guise of an appeal to justice in matters relating to civil or family court jurisdiction.”

Working in partnership with Voice4Victims and Veritas Justice in 2016, we published a report which found that “the rights of victims need to be enshrined in law and significant change is needed to stop perpetrators from manipulating the court system for their own gains”.

Over 1 million people are stalked in the UK every year, and recent research by Voice4Victims found that 55% of stalking and domestic abuse victims with a restraining order against their perpetrator had court proceedings taken out against them regardless. It is vital that loopholes are closed to prevent this concerning practice from continuing.

Suzy Lamplugh Trust supports this Bill and hopes to see changes made which ensure that victims are no longer left vulnerable to abuse of the Civil and Family Courts. We are encouraged to see positive focus on this issue, and hope that this will soon translate into action.

Our own piece of work, Restoring the Balance, seeks to answer the question of how to stop abusive perpetrators using the law to cause emotional harm to vulnerable victims, whilst ensuring the right to a fair hearing is maintained as required under article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Second Reading of the Courts (Abuse of Process) Bill is due on March 16th.