The third Alice Ruggles Trust conference was held on
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
via Microsoft Teams
Our 2021 conference focused on people’s perceptions of risk in relation to stalking, including—importantly—those of the victims themselves. A victim's own perceptions in this regard are critical in deciding whether, when and how to seek professional help in the first place, just as professionals confronted with a case of stalking must assess the perceived risk from a range of perspectives in forming their own professional judgement of what action to take.
As at our previous conferences, our audience brought together a range of academics and practitioners across criminal justice, victim support, youth services, and voluntary services with the broad aim of better supporting stalking victims, particularly those under 25 years of age.
Conference themes included
- Professional understanding of risk from different disciplines
- Victim perception of risk
- Support-network education around risk
- Risk assessment and safety planning
The conference was opened by Claire Waxman, London’s first Victims Commissioner.
Dave Thomason: "Risk Management in stalking: is the law fit for purpose?"
Dave is a Detective Sergeant at Cheshire Constabulary and leads the Harm Reduction Unit, a successor to the Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit which he created and developed following 15 years working at local, national and international levels to tackle stalking.
Dave discussed some of the tangible and practical consequences for those charged with upholding the laws that have been created over the past few years and how this correlates with effective risk management.
His presentation led to the passing of an important conference resolution —see below.
Soma Sara: “Everyone’s Invited: understanding rape culture and the impact on society”
Soma founded Everyone’s Invited in June 2020 as a space for survivors of rape culture to share their stories. Since 8 March 2021, over 15,000 anonymous testimonies have been submitted and shared on Everyone’s Invited, sparking a conversation about rape culture with millions of people. In her talk, Soma talked about how “Everyone's Invited” came into being and what it does.
The full-day conference will include three workshop sessions, each with three or four workshops running in parallel.
Dr Maria Mellins and Peta Franklin-Corben: “Tackling stalking cases in higher education”
Maria (left) is Associate Professor in Criminology, Sociology and Film at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Her research focuses on stalking, and the media representation of victims and survivors. Peta is a registered Social Worker with almost a decade’s worth of experience of front line social work, both in Australia and the UK. She is currently a Senior Case Manager at Durham University, where she provides support and education to students and the wider University community under the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Procedure, including providing staff training on Domestic Violence and Stalking.
Their workshop focused on building connections between universities, advocacy services, police and other areas of the criminal justice system. The discussion will consider how we might improve identification and management of stalking cases in Higher Education.
Jan Berry: “When is a neighbour dispute stalking?”
Jan, a retired senior police officer and former Chair of the Police Federation, is a strategic adviser to the charity Protection Against Stalking. Her workshop discussed several cases where the perpetrator is a neighbour and the police (and in some cases Housing Associations) have treated it solely as a civil matter, closing their eyes to the stalking behaviours and the consequent risk.
Prof. Jane Monkton-Smith: “Stalking-related suicide”
Jane is Professor of Public Protection at the University of Gloucestershire. Jane’s research on the eight-stage homicide timeline has achieved widespread acclaim, given its practical application in ex-intimate stalking cases as a critical tool in risk assessment. Her workshop focused on her recent research into stalking-related suicide.
Emily Hindle and Connie Muttock: “The DAC Office’s role and policy priorities”
Emily and Connie work in the Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner (DAC), which supports the DA Commissioner to be an independent voice that speaks on behalf of victims and survivors to raise public awareness and hold both agencies and government to account in tackling domestic abuse.
Emily and Connie’s workshop focused on parental alienation as a key issue in the family courts and a new oversight mechanism for Domestic Homicide Reviews that is being set up by the DAC office.
Drs Emma Short and Elena Martellozzo: “Lessons learnt from the Covid pandemic: recognising the cyber risk in stalking”
Emma is an Associate Professor at De Montfort University, leading the Psychology and Technology Research cluster, as well as a Chartered Health Psychologist and HCPC-registered practitioner in Health Psychology. In 2011, she co-founded the National Centre for Cyberstalking Research. Elena is an Associate Professor in Criminology at the Centre for Child Abuse and Trauma Studies at Middlesex University. Elena has extensive experience of applied research within the criminal justice arena.
Emma and Elena’s workshop addressed the impact of technological evolutions within harassment, stalking and fixated abuse over the last decade, informed by Emma’s research in the area of cyber harassment and technology-facilitated abuse and Elena’s on children and young people’s online behaviour, child protection and cyber-crime.
Sarah from the National Stalking Helpline: “Considering risk in stalking cases”
Launched by a small group of stalking survivors and survivor-led organisations, the National Stalking Helpline has grown from a single advisor to the largest service of its type in the world, and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust is at the fore of stalking service provision, risk assessment, knowledge, policy, and campaigning in the UK. This workshop focused on stalking-specific risk.
Dr Jonathan Bigg: “Adolescents’ perceptions of risk”
Jon is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist whose main focus of work for 20 years has been assessment, management and intervention in cases where significant risks of serious harm to other people has been a major issue. He has a particular interest in Complex Trauma and particularly vulnerable children and families. He is a member of the Wessex Forensic CAMHS team, which serves the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Region, and is their Named Doctor for Safeguarding Children.
Jon's workshop focused on adolescent developmental tasks, how adolescent naivete leaves children as unwitting targets, how the softer edges of persistent and irritating behaviours can be hard to distinguish from what young people might reasonably expect normal romantic overtures to be like.
During the coffee and lunch breaks we played recordings of young people (students from the Pauline Quirke Academy in Maidenhead) interviewing:
- Tricia Bernal MBE, co-founder of Protection Against Stalking and a family support worker and advocate for the peer-support charity AAFDA.
- Lee Barnard MBE, a detective inspector within the Metropolitan Police and the Operational Lead for the Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team within the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
The conference passed the following resolution:
Emerging evidence suggests that the effectiveness and application of Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) is being hampered by multiple complicating and competing factors, leaving victims at risk of serious harm or death. The conference calls for an urgent and comprehensive independent review of SPOs.
Last year’s resolutions
We are also carrying out a survey to assess progress on the six resolutions passed at our 2020 conference. If you have not yet been contacted and would like to take part in this survey, please complete the form here. Thank you!
If you were at the conference and have not yet filled in an evaluation form, please access the form here. Thank you!