The Stalking Protection Bill had its second reading on Friday 18 January and I welcome new provisions, which have a preventative intention. However, a reality check is needed, and I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but any type of protection order only works for those who play by the rules, and where there is no previous history of abuse. Most stalkers do not play by the rules and there is almost always a history. The stark reality is that pieces of paper do not protect victims.
Having worked in the police, I know the databases are nothing like those portrayed in the hit shows CSI or Criminal Minds. We want perpetrators’ offending behaviour and histories to be joined up and placed on one system - and that system already exists in the Violent and Sex Offenders Register (ViSOR). However, we want the police focus to change and to be firmly on the perpetrator. Call me radical and old fashioned, but they are the ones committing the crime.
The Domestic Abuse Bill does little to tackle this cultural shift. It does include further measures relating to the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, better knows as Clare’s Law, which places the onus on victims asking about abuser’s histories. However, the DVDS is reactive and slow. Months go by before victims and their family members receive relevant information, if at all. In this time a victim, their family member and/or member of the public may be further abused and/or killed. The DVDS is dependent on a victim and/or family member or member of the public asking the police about someone’s “history of violence.” Alarmingly, there is no infrastructure to support the scheme nor is there a duty on the police to identify serial abusers or input the information about serial perpetrators nor manage the abuser once that information is shared.
There are few crimes the police can make worse but stalking and domestic abuse are two of them. 55 women were murdered after reporting the abuse to police in the last three years, a VICE and Paladin #UnFollowMe report recently revealed. Many cases including Zoe Dronfield, who was attacked and almost killed - victim thirteen of serial abuser Jason Smith - has been spearheading our campaign alongside John Clough MBE, the father of Jane Clough who was stalked and murdered by serial abuser Jonathan Vass, highlight that police forces do not even make the links of serial offending in their own police region, and give little or no consideration to what a perpetrator may be doing elsewhere.
This was also the case when seventeen-year-old pregnant Jayden Parkinson was murdered, Alice Ruggles, Shana Grice and Molly McKlaren. Two women are killed each week and 10 more attempt suicide due to abuse. Significantly, this figure has remained static for more than a decade and will no doubt continue given the fact we ask questions of the wrong people and abusers remain invisible in the system.
This is why a radical cultural shift is needed with a serious consequence for the perpetrator - a ‘you must proactively check and investigate’ philosophy. It’s estimated that there are 25,000 serial perpetrators in England and Wales. 20% of them would go on the register. It would cost £1.4million for the first three years, which would be offset by reducing offending and preventing murders. If one murder were prevented, the money would be recouped immediately.