Scotland prosecute stalking at impressive 20x the rate of the rest of the UK
Embargo until: 30th December 2012
Stalkers in Scotland are over 20 times more likely to be prosecuted than in England or Wales. Prioritisation, support infrastructure in place at every stage and appropriate training are the keys to Scotland’s runaway success.
The Digital-Trust is recommending and campaigning to have the England and Wales criminal justice system adopt the successful Scottish practices that have delivered better results for victims.
Harry Fletcher explains, ‘stalking is increasing due to technology so it paramount that we improve the criminal justices ability to deal with this escalating problem. Scotland’s law is simple to understand, their staff has been trained and there are specialist prosecutors. This may well account for the sharp differences will England and Wales. Attention must urgently be given to improving training south of the border’
Scotland introduced their laws in December 2010, nearly two years before the England and Wales which has been in force since 25 November 2012. Both has been laws operational throughout the last two years but differences in approach are highlighted by surprising difference in prosecution rates.
The latest Statistics from the Scottish Crown Office show that the number of prosecutions commenced during the year 2013 to 2014 totalled 1,327 instances (that’s two in every 10,000 persons or .002%). In the comparable period England and Wales which combined are 11 times the size of Scotland had only charged 734 cases (.13 in every 10,000 persons or .00013%). That translates to a difference of 20 to 1 per capita.
The principal reason for the higher prosecution rate in Scotland is that the COPFS (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service) have appointed a national lead prosecutor for all cases involving stalking.
This role acts as an expert resource to prosecutors considering and prosecuting such offences. In addition, only prosecutors who have undergone a specialist training course on victims and witnesses of domestic abuse are permitted to mark and prosecute stalking cases.
The COPFS prosecution policy emphasises the dynamics behind stalking to assist prosecutors in making the best decisions in the public interest. Victims of stalking are also referred to a dedicated specially trained Victim Information and Advice Service of the COPFS to ensure that victims are kept informed of developments and are engaged and supported throughout the criminal justice process. This would arguably increase victims’ confidence in the system and increase success rates.
In addition, Scotland has also introduced an innovative case recovery strategy. It can be used if a victim is failed by the criminal justice system and ensures that there is a timely review of their case.
Police Scotland and the Crown Office have also deemed stalking to be a Top Priority listed crime and Parliament is currently reviewing the status of predatory offences to make sure officers treat psychological damage to a victim as a serious behaviour
There are also significant inconsistences between Police areas in England and Wales for prosecutions under the new Stalking Laws. Across the 2 year period there were 45 prosecutions in West Yorkshire compared to 13 in South Yorkshire. There were 9 in Durham and 39 in Northumbria. In Greater Manchester there were 75 whilst in Merseyside there were 22. The differences may well be a reflection of Training and Police area priorities.
The most recent statistics from January 2014 show that 5,949 staff in Manchester had done some Training compared to 92 in Merseyside and 6,026 staff had viewed e learning in West Yorkshire compared in 29 in the South of the County.
“Abusive partners use technology to spy on their partners. This stalking behaviour can take place while they are still living together or after they have separated. So, it is important that we start to look at the impact of technology on domestic abuse” says Jennifer Perry, CEO of the Digital-Trust.