Alice Ruggles Trust — Some of our activities in 2017 and 2018

Professional training and best practice

Police. Several members of the Trust attended a day-conference organised by Paladin, “Raising the Bar: Best Practice in Stalking Cases” (London, June 2017), which was aimed at Police Officers dealing with stalking offences. Clive, Alice’s father, presented Alice’s story and spoke about what we would like to see change. Since then, the Trust has been working with several police forces who are developing new training on stalking and harassment, including the Metropolitan Police in London, Leicestershire Police and South Wales Police (participation in strategic planning and/or training sessions), and Northumbria Police, West Midlands Police and Essex Police (providing materials for training packages). A video recorded by Alice’s parents Sue and Clive in December 2017 for Northumbria police has been used as part of an on-line training package delivered to all front-line officers in the early part of 2018 covering understanding of existing stalking legislation, assessment of risk, investigative and tactical options, and the lessons to be learned from Alice’s case.

Crown Prosecution Service. Clive was invited to speak on behalf of the Trust at a CPS Senior Managers’ conference (York, November 2017) about what happened to Alice. The Director of Public Prosecutions has since assured the Trust that Alice’s story has had a significant impact, with many CPS managers planning actions to ensure that both police colleagues and CPS staff in their areas are aware of the issues around stalking and will work to develop strong cases which allow the court to take the right action. In May 2018 the CPS, together with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), released a new Protocol on the appropriate handling of stalking or harassment offences, as part of a package of measures to improve the way that the criminal justice system deals with stalking and harassment. The Trust understands that the protocol was influenced by Alice's case, and was invited to present Alice's story at a new protocol masterclass held in London a few days prior to its release. We will also be participating in a quality assurance meeting following the completion of mandatory training for all CPS prosecutors in the new protocol.

Home Office. Each police force is required to have a Crime Registrar (FCR) who, together with their teams, is responsible for driving improvements in the recording of crime. The Home Office National Crime Registrar had identified stalking and harassment as an important area where improvement was needed, and invited the Alice Ruggles Trust, along with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and representatives of the National Police Chiefs’ Council portfolio for Stalking and Harassment, to speak at a session on the subject at the annual Force Crime Registrars’ conference held in March 2018. The Trust understands that a significant change has now been made to FCR guidelines whereby if an offence such as criminal damage or assault involves some element of stalking or harassment then police are now expected to record both: in the past it was likely that only the direct offence would have been reported. Even without this new development, new Home Offices figures released in 2018 show that the number of stalking offences reported has trebled nationally and increased by a factor of almost 10 in the north-east.

Military. During June 2017, Alice’s boyfriend Mike gave a number of presentations to British Army units based in Germany on the signs and dangers of stalking and coercive control, including one to an audience of Heads of agencies, and to welfare, medical, military police, education and social services professionals who are already (or may inadvertently be) involved in dealing with Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour-Based Violence (DASH) assessments. The presentations were delivered in conjunction with Lisa Horder, the lead on safeguarding, domestic abuse and the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) in British Forces Germany (BFG), to raise awareness and give basic training on recognising the signs of stalking, harassment, controlling and coercive behaviour. Mike returned to Germany in March 2018 to present two further talks to the Royal Military Police on stalking as part of their DASH training. These RMP soldiers and officers deal with DASH cases daily in BFG.

Campaigning

Stalking Protection Bill. The Trust participated in efforts to motivate MPs to support the Stalking Protection Bill at its second reading in January 2018, and conducted its own social media campaign. Earlier, on behalf of the Trust, Clive had attended a meeting in Parliament in October 2017 chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP to discuss Stalking Protection Orders ahead of the second reading, and Sue and Clive attended a round table in January 2018 organised by Sarah Wollaston and Victoria Atkins (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability). In the debate itself, both Neil O'Brien (MP for Harborough) and Victoria Atkins mentioned Alice and the Trust in their speeches. The Bill passed its second reading in January 2018 and completed its Committee Stage on 9 July. It is due to have its report stage and third reading on Friday 23 November.

Serial Perpetrator register. The Trust has lent its support to a campaign led by Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service to introduce a register that would enable police to pro-actively identify, track, monitor and manage stalkers. Such a register would also allow front-line police assessing the seriousness of a call from a victim to be immediately alerted to previous incidents involving the perpetrator that would indicate a dangerous pattern of behaviour. We participated in various media interviews around the time that a Paladin petition calling for the introduction of such a register was presented to the Prime Minister in October 2017. We have also co-operated with Broadly UK, a digital platform focusing on women’s issues, in the production of a short video telling Alice’s story that is being circulated on social media as part of their “UnFollowMe” campaign. This joint campaign with Paladin, launched in July 2018, aims to highlight domestic abuse and stalking among young people as well as to continue to press for a Serial Perpetrator register. The petition supporting the introduction of such a register has now attracted over 150,000 signatures.

Domestic Abuse Bill. In a debate on domestic violence and abuse in the House of Lords in July 2017, Baroness Jan Royall spoke about what happened to Alice and quoted Clive saying he believed Alice’s fear was dismissed by the police owing to her polite and respectful demeanour. She said there was no consistency in how the calls were handled and that to be asked “Well, what do you think we should do about it?” is “appalling, and there is no excuse”. Along with a number of other victims’ relatives and charities, Sue and Clive attended a Home Office workshop in April 2018 seeking feedback on the prevention of domestic abuse and the needs of families following homicides, in relation to a Government consultation on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. The meeting was attended by both Home Office and Ministry of Justice officials. They have also submitted their own response to the consultation.

Raising awareness and public engagement

Documentaries. Although focusing almost exclusively on the police investigation following Alice’s murder, the TV documentary “An Hour to Catch a Killer”, broadcast on ITV in October 2017, generated a good deal of media interest in Alice’s story and the lessons to be learned. The documentary “Murdered by my stalker”, screened on 5-STAR TV in July 2018, and available in the long term as a podcast, tells the whole story of what happened to Alice and directly highlights the lessons that need to be learned, both by the police and other agencies but also by the general public. The dangers of stalking are also highlighted in Emma Casson’s award-winning 3-part radio documentary “It’s not your Fault”, broadcast and discussed on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and 4 Extra in July 2018 and available indefinitely as a podcast. Members of the Ruggles family and other representatives of the Trust are involved in the planning and production of further documentaries targeting different audiences.

Interviews. Members of Alice’s family and other representatives of the Trust have given numerous press, television and radio interviews to tell Alice's story and raise general awareness of the dangers of stalking, including on BBC and ITV national and local news, on programmes such as ITV’s Good Morning Britain, and in features and articles in the Guardian, Sun, Daily Mail, Newcastle Chronicle and a range of other UK national and local newspapers. These have mostly been in association with specific events and campaigns such as the screening of the ITV documentary “An Hour to Catch a Killer” in October 2017, the autumn 2017 campaign for a Serial Perpetrator register, and the campaign to support the Stalking Protection Bill through its second reading in January 2018. A 70-minute “Real Crime Profile” podcast released in April 2018 in which Clive speaks to Laura Richards, founder of Paladin, and her colleagues in the United States about Alice’s story and the lessons to be learned, has helped propagate the message in the USA. A short video interview with Alice’s parents Sue and Clive and brother Nick was recorded in July 2018 by Broadly UK, a digital platform focusing on women’s issues, for distributing on social media as part of their “UnFollowMe” campaign together with Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service. It aims to raise awareness of the dangers of domestic abuse and stalking among young people.

Talks. The Trust has begun working to raise awareness among 16–18-year-olds about coercive behaviour and stalking through talks at schools and among Duke of Edinburgh award-scheme groups.

Trust stall and leaflets. The Trust has produced an “Are you being stalked?” leaflet carrying simple messages to help make people at large much more aware of the dangers of stalking and the need to contact the police or other agencies at a much earlier stage. We have also produced a charity Information leaflet and banners for displays at fundraising events, and set up a manned stall at major fundraising events such as the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Nationals sporting event in Sheffield in February 2018, and the Family Fun Day held in Gateshead in June 2018.

Social media. Our social media team, Emma Casson, Gen Crozier, Lizzie Smith and Megan Stewart, help promote the Trust’s goals and activities on Facebook and Twitter. A selection of the main messages from the “Are you being stalked?” leaflet were put out on social media on each day of Stalking awareness week in April 2018.

National Stalking Consortium

The Alice Ruggles Trust is a member of the National Stalking Consortium, a collaboration of organisations working in stalking whose overall aim is to improve support to victims of stalking throughout the UK, and attends regular consortium meetings.