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Stalking protocols welcome but Scottish approach would help more victims

The Digital-Trust welcomes the new protocols announced by the CPS and ACPO in effort to improve victim’s confidence and conviction rates.

  • It is important that victim’s statements are used in stalking cases because it involves psychological terrorism which can be difficult to understand without the victim’s voice.
  • Having a better understanding why victims are reluctant to go to court will allow the criminal justice system to address low victim confidence.
  • Consulting on bail conditions is important but there is a need to make sure that they are also enforced

Harry Fletcher of Director of the Digital-Trust and a leading stalking campaigner, “It is important that the police and CPS listen to victims however, we can still learn how to improve on the low prosecution rates by looking towards Scotland”.

The data on prosecutions shows that Scotland is prosecuting significantly more perpetrators per capita than England and Wales. On November 25th 2012 the new Stalking Laws came into force for England and Wales, following the enactment of similar legislation in Scotland in December of 2010.

If you compare the national figures shows that although prosecutions for Stalking and Harassment increased after the legislation across the whole of the UK, Scotland has outperformed England and Wales.

During the first 16 months in Scotland, 362 prosecutions commenced. The total number of cases brought to court in England and Wales combined during a similar period, by contrast, was 834. 

Scotland brought 300% more prosecutions per capita in their first year than England and Wales. If Scotland continues with their 30% increase in prosecution each year there could be a significant differential in prosecutions north and south of the border – possibly as much as fivefold. 

The key to increasing prosecution and conviction rates relies on training to change attitudes towards stalking, improve investigation and prosecutions. Scotland has also appointed a lead prosecutor and employed specific victims’ advocates who have had a huge impact on victims’ confidence and the number of cases reaching court.

In 2012, the National Police Improvement Agency (which has now been merged into the College of Policing) produced a twenty-minute e-training package for all police officers on the new stalking offences. As of May 2014, there have been 52,176 police officers who have viewed the new material. This represents 38% of the total number of relevant police. 

Harry Fletcher said, “Whilst this is obviously an improvement, progress is still needed in order to get the new law properly understood. The appointment of a lead prosecutor and specific victim advocates are also vital for England and Wales”.

As of the 11th June 2014, The Crown Prosecution service has trained 1,447 or 50% of their lawyers on a new ‘Stalking and Harassment’ course, which deals specifically with stalking and harassment offences – with the emphasis on building a strong case.

A second paper published today highlights a key challenge in bringing stalking prosecutions. More abuse is now being conducted using new technology. The Digital-Trust has highlighted the growth of, and threat posed by, the increasing abuse carried out using digital technology including mobiles, social media and surveillance technology.

The Digital-Trust has undertaken a survey of a 173 victims. The results showed that abusers used more digital means to perpetrate harassment than offline means. The 2013 statistics from the National Stalking Helpline also shows the highest percentage of abusive behaviour was via digital than offline.

The use of spyware on both computers and mobiles is now widespread in stalking cases. Spyware is inexpensive and easy to obtain. One software download site alone had sold over 4.5 million copies of spyware.

Jennifer Perry, CEO Digital-Trust said, “The increasing volume and the technical nature are proving to be a challenge for criminal justice agencies and traditional support charities, who are struggling to cope. There needs to be more specialist training and resources to help victims increase their security and reduce the harm from digital abuse”.

Sunday Post - Stalking prosecutions

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