After tireless campaigning, stalking became a criminal offence across England and Wales in 2012. Today, it’s been announced as part of preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG) that new Stalking Protection Orders will be implemented. The news coincides with the ‘16 days of action’ following International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November 2016.
The Government has said that orders will be introduced to provide earlier intervention and protection for victims of this considered and deliberate crime. Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said: “It’s a practical solution to crime taking place now.” With new legislative measures in place, the police will be able to apply to the courts for a Stalking Protection Order before a suspect has been convicted or arrested. Incidents will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but breaching an order could carry the maximum term of five years’ imprisonment for offenders. An order can protect a victim while evidence is gathered.
The new legislation is likely to include a suspect being banned from going near their victim or contacting them online and will help victims in England and Wales who are deliberately targeted by a stranger. It is also expected that suspects suffering from mental health issues will be required to undergo treatment while others may be ordered to attend rehabilitation programmes.
Frontline police officers will need to be able to recognise the signs of stalking in order for new legislation to be effective, however, awareness of this crime is growing amongst professionals and local communities. But, there is still much to be done.
Rights of Women, who specialise in supporting women who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing gender-based violence and those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable, state that a large proportion of cases, particularly in the early stages of stalking, have, ‘no sufficient or appropriate legal protection available for the victim.’
The Home Office Consultation (December 2015) describes stalking as: ‘an insidious and devastating crime which, at its most extreme, can lead to the loss of innocent lives.’ HGT is no stranger to stalking and the victims it claims. As part of his annual dinner speech on Saturday 26 November, Chairman of the Trust, Nick Gazzard said: “We are working on a big stalking support service that we want to roll out across the county and the South West next year.”
Stalking is a cumulative effect of behaviours on a specifically target victim. The term stalking wasn’t coined until the 20th century in the media, but the patterns of behaviours have been recognised since the 16th century. Known previously as prowlers or poachers, stalkers describe people who pester and harass others. Today in the UK, many stalkers are former partners of victims. The psychological effects on a victim are devastating and many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). On average, victims experience around 100 instances of stalking before reporting their stalker to the police.
Victims of stalking should not suffer in silence and should report it. The six golden rules
1 Report it as early as possible and tell others
2 Ensure you get good practical advice
3 Proactive evidence collection
4 Overview of what is happening – keep a diary
5 Risk screening – complete the DASH checklist
6 Trust your instinct and never make contact with the stalker