A report published on July 5 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) into harassment and stalking found that people who have suffered repeated harassment or stalking are frequently being let down by under-recording, inconsistent services and a lack of understanding by the criminal justice system. The Alice Ruggles Trust welcomes the report but urges the Police and CPS to take its findings seriously and to act with urgency on all its recommendations.
The report found that
- The definitions of stalking and harassment are unclear, resulting in stalking cases not being properly investigated and offenders being charged with lesser crimes.
- Crimes of stalking and harassment are not always recorded correctly, or even at all, meaning that time and money are not allocated proportionately to these offences in relation to others.
- Incidents of stalking behaviour are often treated separately, meaning that police are not aware of the full picture of stalking behaviour.
- Risk assessments are not always carried out for victims of stalking and harassment. In addition, risk management plans were often not made, leaving victims in danger.
- Police Information Notices (PINs) are often (inappropriately) used as warnings to the perpetrators, meaning that no thorough investigation takes place and there is little positive action either to protect the victim or to bring the perpetrator to justice.
- Guidance by police on avoiding online offending was poor and often left the victim in a more vulnerable position.
The recommendations include
- A new harassment and stalking Authorised Professional Practice should be published as a matter of urgency, including a review of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and a clearer definition of stalking.
- A review of the risk assessment and management in harassment and stalking crimes should be undertaken.
- The National Stalking Protocol should be reviewed, so as to ensure that it is fully effective and operates consistently, that it includes guidance on crime prevention advice for victims (including online safety), and that it raises awareness of the differences between harassment and stalking.
- The use of Police Information Notices and their equivalents should be stopped immediately.