POLITICS

An Incredibly Tiny Percentage Of Stalking Incidents End In Prosecution, Charity Says

Labour's Yvette Cooper warns victims are being let down.

08/09/2017 19:00 BST
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A shockingly tiny percentage of stalking incidents end in the prosecution of the perpetrator, according to a charity.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust estimates there are about 1.1 million cases every year in which victims are harassed, intimidated or made to feel unsafe by a stalker - many of which are never reported to the police.

In 2015/16, there were just 753 prosecutions for stalking offences, with 529 ending in a conviction - around 0.04% of the total number of estimated incidents.

And a study by the charity, set up in memory of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, who disappeared without trace more than 30 years ago, revealed stalking behaviour is present in the background of a huge number of cases in which women are killed by men. 

Of 358 murders examined during a three-year period from 2012 until 2014, the killer was found to have engaged in some form of stalking in 94%.

According to the report released by the trust and the Homicide Research Group at Gloucestershire University, the aim of the study was to explore the relationship between stalking and murders by tracking the frequency of certain characteristics in the background of the cases.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Suzy Lamplugh, a 25-year-old estate agent, disappeared in 1986.

“Our analysis of those frequencies suggests that there is a strong correlation between some key stalking behaviours and homicide,” it states.

“Those key behaviours are characterised by fixation and obsession, actions linked to surveillance and control, and escalation in concerning behaviours. Further, we suggest that most homicides in our sample appear to occur as part of an emotional journey rather than an explosion of spontaneous and immediately provoked violence.”

The study suggests a link between stalking and violence and coercive controlling behaviour, which the government tightened up laws around in 2015. 

The offence, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, applies to “behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse”.

Suky Bhaker, head of policy and development at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which also runs the National Stalking Helpline, said: “Our research suggests that escalation in the frequency or severity of stalking behaviour is an indicator of cases reaching crisis point and becoming a trigger for serious harm to the victim.

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“This can happen when someone decides to end an abusive relationship, for example.  In some cases, if the relationship has been categorised by this kind of controlling behaviour, it can be difficult for the victim to identify it as stalking.

“We currently are able to answer between 25 and 30% of all calls that come through to the helpline.  The rest we aren’t able to cover, if they are made outside the hours in which the helpline is open. 

“Quite often people will call to say they realise something isn’t right, and we can help them to assess whether they are experiencing stalking.”

Labour MP and former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said cuts to emergency service budgets made it harder for the authorities to tackle incidents.

“Stalking is an incredibly serious crime which too often gets dismissed or lack of resources means not enough is done,” she told HuffPost UK.

“It can wreck victims lives, create a huge amount of fear and distress, and also link to serious violent crime, assault and murder as these figures show.

“The police need the resources, capabilities and training to prevent and prosecute this crime. At the moment this simply isn’t the case - and victims are being let down.” 

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Yvette Cooper says victims of stalking are being let down.

Bhaker said the trust wants to see more professionals from a range of backgrounds given support to spot the signs of stalking.

“It would be really beneficial for authorities, including GPs and council staff, to be given training to be able to recognise patterns of behaviour and identify where someone may be at risk of stalking,” she added.

“The key thing about stalking is that it is based around fixation and obsession, so identifying and nipping that behaviour in the bud early, to ensure it does not escalate, is key to prevention.

“The additional legislation brought in by the government around coercive control is beneficial, but we still have a very long way to go.”

The trust defines stalking as any type of behaviour that is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing the victim fear, distress or anxiety.

It affects the entire socio-economic spectrum and around 45% of cases referred to the National Stalking Helpline involve someone the victim has had an intimate relationship with.

If you suspect you are, or know someone who may be a victim of stalking, call the helpline on 0808 802 0300 or visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust website for more information.