Our Response to Government Announcement on Stalking Protection Orders

Today the Government announced plans for Stalking Protection Orders and many have publicly supported this step as positive. Our organisation deals with an overwhelming number of stranger stalking cases who cannot access any justice and support and arrive at us, desperate for help. We therefore hear first-hand from the victims and what impact the crime and/or lack of Police & CPS support has on them. Many victims we hear from are being stalked for months, even years before action happens. Even if action happens, the victim is being exposed to further harm and struggle for any help from the ongoing trauma of being stalked. When our voluntary agency is forced to intervene on cases, action happens but we feel this should be occurring as standard across the country and not dependent on us as we are not funded to provide such a service to victims.

The fundamental problem we see with these cases is that four years after the introduction of the stalking legislation, there are still far too many Police officers, especially front line officers, who are not trained or not trained effectively enough to understand and recognise stalking. This is creating a barrier for the stalking victim when they try to access justice and support and are not convinced this will change with the introduction of a Stalking Protection Order.

We have discussed these new proposals with front line Police officers and many have raised their concerns. Whilst there are potential positives, many feel there is already existing legislation such as Protection from Harassment Act and the Stalking amendments to this legislation that can and should be used for criminal investigations. Police can already charge using these legislations and there are bail conditions which can be issued upon charge and restraining orders, all in existence to help protect the victims.

If there are claims of stalking, should Police waste vital time getting a stalking protection order when the law is there to be used? Or will this be another hurdle for the victim to go through which stalls Police response and action?

Early intervention is key and why we urge Police to respond to stalking claims swiftly and robustly. With the latest figures that 1 in 5 women are stalked and there have been only a total number of 1,683 prosecutions in past 3 years, it’s obvious that there is an urgent need for proper training for both Police to investigate complaints properly and for CPS to charge with the stalking legislation and prosecute more effectively.

We believe the emphasis should still be on prompt and effective investigation and a concern with this new initiative is that it could lead to stalkers having another platform to access where they can claim they are the victim. This happens so frequently in stalking cases which Police and CPS are still failing to recognise and why Voice4Victims launched Abuse of Process campaign to tackle this problem. This new order could give rise to an Abuse of Process whereby the perpetrator uses the Police and/or courts through the Stalking Protection Order to continue stalking their victim on their behalf. We therefore hope great care and understanding will be taken before applying for such an order to prevent abuse of process taking place.

This order should not detract from the Police time needed to conduct a thorough investigation into stalking claims which should take priority as per the Victims Code. The government really needs to be focusing on how to better train officers and agencies to recognise stalking earlier on and to use the legislation in existence to protect the victim. Police must stop seeing stalking crime as a low level ‘incident’ and actually recognise it for the insidious life changing crime that it is.

In short, we expect the government to now fund better training programmes for the Police to understand stalking. Further the Police need to recognise the Abuse of Process that many stalkers use in order to harm their victims. Finally, the government needs to urgently fund easily accessible treatment programmes for the stalkers as currently there is no funded specialised clinics or therapeutic programmes to help deal with their obsessive and fixated behaviour.

Voice4Victims runs the Victims’ Law and Abuse of Process Parliamentary campaigns and continues to offer voluntary support and advice to stalking victims struggling to access justice and support.

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