Latest News Press Release: Bridging The Gap Suzy Lamplugh Trust report reveals that three quarters of respondents who experienced stalking in the UK are not receiving vital specialist support. New report for National Stalking Awareness Week examines victims’ access to, and experiences with, Independent Stalking Advocates London, UK – 21st April 2022: The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has today published the findings of its ‘Bridging the Gap’ report, in recognition of National Stalking Awareness Week 2022. The report shows that whilst access to stalking advocates aids victims’ safety, wellbeing and outcomes within the criminal justice system, the majority (77%) of respondents who experienced stalking in the UK were not supported by an Independent Stalking Advocate. Furthermore, Suzy Lamplugh Trust highlights the need for a better response to victims from those within the criminal justice system; the report shows that only 15% of the respondents who reported to police were referred to a stalking advocate by the police. Stalking advocates are trained specialists who provide victims with expert advice and support during a period of crisis, often when the stalker’s behaviour is escalating and the response from the criminal justice system or other agencies fails to address it. Significantly, the results of the report survey indicate that victims who were supported by a stalking advocate had higher rates of reporting to the police and were more successful when pursuing legal action against their stalkers than the national rates. Two in five respondents (38%) who were supported by a stalking advocate said their advocate helped them report to the police, one in three (30%) saw their stalkers charged, one in four (26%) saw their stalkers prosecuted, and one in four (25%) saw their stalkers convicted. This is compared with published rates for England and Wales where only one in 50 cases are reported, one in 435 stalkers are charged, one in 556 stalkers are prosecuted, and one in 1,000 stalkers are convicted. Respondents also said their stalking advocate was vital in supporting their overall wellbeing and mental health. Approximately three out of four respondents, 79% said their stalking advocate had validated their experiences and had identified where stalking behaviours were occurring. Stalking advocates also helped respondents by assessing risk, creating safety plans, and empowering them to take next steps. However, the report also highlights that more needs to be done to provide victims with access to stalking advocacy services. Most victims are not being connected to critical stalking specialist support which can improve their wellbeing and safety, protect their rights, and help them achieve better legal outcomes as a result. Victims commented: “This needs to be suggested by the police as a support mechanism, as it would have been helpful to know I wasn’t alone.” “They (stalking advocate) helped me navigate through the police and judicial system and the court process which otherwise would have been completely confusing and overwhelming.” “Before I had a stalking advocate I felt as if the police weren’t taking me seriously. She not only listened, empathised and supported me from the start - she continued to do so until the perpetrator was convicted of his crime. I can't thank her enough.” Based on the findings of this report, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust is making the following policy recommendations: Dedicated funding for specialist stalking services must be separate from domestic violence funding enabling advocacy support for all victims of stalking. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is therefore calling for at least £10 million a year in funding to be ringfenced for stalking victims specifically, outside of the domestic abuse arena for England and Wales (1) Police forces must increase the number of stalking reports recorded in their area. Any professional in the criminal justice system involved in an investigation or legal proceedings involving stalking (namely the CPS, probation and police) must have attended and completed relevant specialist stalking training. Police must signpost stalking victims to a specialist stalking service (national or local) when victims report stalking Frontline services must signpost stalking victims to a specialist stalking service with specially trained Stalking Advocates All specialist stalking services should operate within a trauma-informed approach An independent task group should be set up to examine the shockingly low conviction rates for stalking cases in England and Wales, from report phase through to conviction. Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, says: “We know that stalking victims greatly benefit from the support offered by specialist advocates. Yet those responsible for handling victims’ reports are not referring them to stalking services. There is a huge gap between victims and support services, and it is simply unacceptable. Police and frontline services must signpost victims to specialist services if we are to truly bridge this gap. “We are also calling for dedicated specialist funding for Independent Stalking Advocates that is separate from domestic violence funding and enables advocacy support for all victims of stalking. Half of all stalking victims are not ex-intimates and therefore would not be eligible for domestic abuse support. It is evident that stalking advocates provide life-changing services to victims. There is no doubt that every victim should have the right to a stalking advocate” Dame Vera Baird DBE QC, Victim’s Commissioner for England and Wales, says: “Stalking is a dangerous and insidious crime and the impact on the victim can be devastating. Yet all too often, victims are not receiving the criminal justice outcomes that might be expected, underlining the need for specialist stalking support. “Stalking Advocates offer invaluable practical advice and support to victims, which police and other justice professionals are ill-placed to provide. For example, they can ensure Stalking Protection Orders are in place, which continue to be underutilised. I fully support the call for an increase in funding for stalking advocates to ensure they can bridge the gap between the victim and the criminal justice system.” Ends Authors of the report, representatives of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and supporters are available for media comment by arrangement, please contact: Suzy Lamplugh Trust: [email protected] / Tel: 07747611308 Editor’s Notes What is stalking? Stalking is defined by Suzy Lamplugh Trust 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. The behaviours can be offline (such as visiting the victim’s home or place of work, following the victim or leaving gifts), or online (such as unwanted social media communication, calls, texts, emails, hacking and spyware). Read more at: www.suzylamplugh.org/faqs/what-is-stalking Suzy Lamplugh Trust: Suzy Lamplugh Trust is a national personal safety charity set up after the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh over 30 years ago. Our mission is to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education, and support. The Trust campaigns for better protections for victims of violence, aggression and stalking in policy and law. Suzy Lamplugh Trust runs the National Stalking Helpline, the only stalking helpline service for all victims across the UK, set up in 2010. The Helpline and Advocacy Service have supported over 55,000 victims of stalking to date. Survey Methodology: The survey was conducted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in March 2022 and was administered through Survey Monkey. It was aimed at individuals who had experienced stalking in the UK and was promoted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, other voluntary organisations, and the Home Office. The survey consisted of 15 multiple choice, tick box, and open response questions that gathered information on respondents’ demographics and their experiences with specialist stalking advocates and the criminal justice system. Basic demographic information was also collected. All participants were informed that their responses would be anonymous and those who chose to leave contact information were assured that their details would remain confidential. A total of 301 individuals responded to the survey. Some individuals (N=18) had either not experienced stalking themselves and/or experienced stalking outside of the UK, so these responses were excluded from analyses. Survey data was analysed using Excel and Survey Monkey analytical functions. There were small sample sizes for certain groups (e.g., people identifying as BAME), which limited detailed analysis by demographic criteria. The findings presented in this report are based on the experiences of those who chose to engage with the survey and are therefore not intended to be a definitive or wholly representative picture of the experience of all stalking victims. (1) This figure would cover independent stalking advocate support for the 98,863 victims of stalking who reported to police in 2021.