Scotland outstripping England and Wales in prosecuting stalking

Scotland outstripping England and Wales in prosecuting stalking

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Stalking and Harassment will today receive a briefing on the latest data on stalking prosecution in the UK. The briefing 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. For the first time comparative figures for regional prosecutions in the first year after each of these legislation changes have been published in a briefing from Delyth Jewell, parliamentary researcher and Harry Fletcher, Director of Digital-Trust, to the APPG.

This first analysis of 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. 

Ann Moulds, founder of Action Scotland Against Stalking explained their success “In Scotland, we’ve run a very focused education campaign and it has resulted in the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service recognising and treating stalking as a serious crime”.

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 (see briefing paper here). 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”.

For further information on any of the topics mentioned in this release, or to arrange interviews with any of the speakers please contact Kathleen Clark at the press office on 0845 833 8292, or email press@digital-trust.org

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