A joint report released today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has revealed nationwide failings in the way that police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) respond to stalking allegations and offences.

The report’s conclusions show:

•             Stalking is frequently unrecognised, mis-recorded or not recorded at all by the police: in the year to December 2016, there were just 4,613 recorded stalking offences versus 202,755 recorded harassment offences.

•             Police are failing to protect victims appropriately when stalking and harassment are reported, with no initial risk assessment taking place in nearly half (46%) of cases examined and no evidence of a risk management plan in 61% of cases reviewed.

•             Stalking victims are regularly left at risk because legislation is not being used effectively to hold perpetrators to account: inspectors frequently misuse protection orders such as Police Information Notices, and drop stalking offences to less serious charges such as vandalism or harassment.

•             There has been no increase in the number of stalking prosecutions between the years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, despite an increase in the number of recorded stalking crimes over the same period.

 

Responding to the report, Chief Executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust which runs the National Stalking Helpline, Rachel Griffin, said:

“We welcome this report from HMIC and HMCPSI which recognises that more needs to be done to protect and support victims of stalking and harassment. Since the National Stalking Helpline started in 2010, we have supported over 21,000 people, and appealed time and time again for an improved understanding of stalking in the criminal justice system and more specialist services. This is the first time that an inspection into stalking and harassment has been carried out, but the findings are no surprise: there is an urgent need for systemic change.

The repeated failure of both the police and the CPS to respond appropriately to stalking is unacceptable. The safety of victims relies upon criminal justice professionals’ ability to recognise this damaging and often dangerous pattern of behaviour and take appropriate action to stop it. We must ensure that police officers and prosecutors across the country take stalking seriously and treat every allegation with due diligence and concern.

The inconsistent use of police powers and interpretation of the law is a concerning and extensive problem. Despite significant increases in the number of stalking crimes recorded, police figures still fail to reflect the true prevalence of this crime because stalking is so often omitted from or mis-recorded in crime numbers. That only a fraction of these recorded crimes result in successful prosecutions is even more worrying.

Every day at the National Stalking Helpline, we hear from victims whose trauma has been exacerbated because they have not received the support and expertise they need to protect them from their perpetrator. It must be a priority to ensure that police forces and prosecutors across the UK can identify stalking, even in the most complex of cases, and are confident implementing legislation to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.

We call for every police force and prosecuting agency to commit to ensuring that frontline staff receive robust, specialist stalking awareness training. Early identification and response to stalking can save lives, and it is imperative that criminal justice professionals increase their understanding of this crime. There must be development across the entire criminal justice system so that victims of stalking get the protection that they deserve."

Anyone who is a victim of stalking, or is worried about someone’s behaviour towards them, can get free, confidential, expert advice and support from the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

Please contact Alice Shaw at Suzy Lamplugh Trust at alice.shaw@suzylamplugh.org or 07747 611 308.