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Only 1.4% of stalking incidents reported to police result in conviction

1.4% of stalking incidents result in conviction
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

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The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, on behalf of the National Stalking Consortium, has published new findings showing that in year ending March 2022, only 1.4% of stalking incidents reported to police resulted in a conviction.

Stalking has been an offence for well over a decade. It’s defined as a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour, which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.

Despite this, the report found a lack of understanding about what constitutes stalking within the whole Criminal Justice System (CJS). The National Stalking Consortium’s findings expressed concern that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) HM Courts and Tribunals Services (HMCTS) and even the judiciary were dismissive of victim’s claims and hesitant to issue Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) that offer victims additional protections.

The report collates case studies to illustrate how stalking victims are put at risk, noting that of 117,672 reports of stalking to the police, only 6.6% resulted in charges brought by the CPS.

91.5% of stalking victims reported psychological impact due to their experiences, yet the report noted prosecutors rarely took this into account. Stalking crimes are often classified as harassment, which means victims are left without adequate risk management to protect them. A perceived lack of evidence saw many victims’ cases dropped altogether, despite clear indications of stalking behaviours.

Pursuing a case of stalking through the CJS, the report says, is often a traumatising experience for many victims. Victims are often left vulnerable, scared, and at risk whilst navigating this.

One victim, who was diagnosed with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), described the impact of stalking as “killing her inside as it’s been going on for so long that it’s mentally and physically made me ill”.

After her case was postponed at court multiple times, she said: “This is like a cancer, it goes on and on and I never get closure”.

The report’s findings echo those of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate’s 2017 inspection ‘Living in Fear – the Police and CPS response to harassment and stalking’, which also found that stalking crimes were often missed or misunderstood by these institutions.

Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the National Stalking Consortium made several recommendations in the report to improve understanding, restore trust in the criminal justice system and address the scale of the stalking problem in the UK:

  • Create an independent task group to look further into the criminal justice process. This would follow stalking cases from point of charge to court trial, ensuring issues raised are investigated thoroughly and that the CPS, HMCTS and judiciary support stalking victims
  • Specialist stalking training for any professional involved in investigations or legal proceedings. The CPS, magistrates, judges, HMCTS and probations personnel, and police can then learn to spot patterns of behaviour that amount to stalking and understand the risks to victims. This would help them to adequately support and protect those targeted by stalkers.
  • Measures to mitigate stalking victims’ distress through the entire court process. This includes minimising delays to hearings, and keeping victims fully informed.
  • A unified recording system to follow a victim’s journey through the legal process, from reporting stage to conviction and sentencing. This would involve the CPS and HMCTS working more closely with police, to faciliate a clearer understanding of high attrition rates for stalking across England and Wales.

Baroness Newlove, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, spoke in support of the report’s recommendations, saying:

“Stalking is one of the most frequently experienced forms of abuse. Yet it’s often misunderstood or mischaracterised by those working in our justice system, heightening victims’ distress.

“It is important these recommendations are given careful consideration, so that we can be sure we are giving victims of stalking all the support and protection they are entitled to expect.” 

Claire Waxman OBE, the London Victims’ Commissioner also welcomed the new report:

“Too often stalking victims are left at risk because of a lack of understanding about what constitutes stalking, or the cumulative impact of this terrifying crime.

“Agencies can also minimise stalking by looking at single incidents rather than the whole picture of offending.

“The report’s recommendations very much chime with what I have long called for: more training; improved use of Stalking Protection Orders; better data collection and early referral to specialist stalking services. We must do better to safeguard victims and save lives.” 

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