Police priorities: Consortium response to Sara Thornton, Chair of NPCC

At the National Police Chief Council summit, Sara Thornton, Chair of NPCC, called for her service to focus on ‘core policing’ rather than recording incidents.  She stated, ‘I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.’

For the National Stalking Consortium, whilst we recognise the necessity for hard choices in policing, we find this sentiment is very alarming.  For the people we support through stalking episodes, many of the initial behaviours they experience are not crimes within themselves.  It is not a crime to send an email, stand on a street corner or send gifts.  However, when these incidents create a pattern of behaviour and engender alarm or distress, they amount to stalking.

Stalking is a serious crime with serious consequences.  Gift giving, contact and surveillance can escalate into violence in 30%-40% of stalking cases, whilst a study by University of Gloucestershire, published by Suzy Lamplugh Trust in 2017, found 94% of femicides featured stalking in the year prior to the victim being killed.  Sara Thornton wants officers to focus on violent crime and core policing, but by investigating incidents and responding to concerns, policing can help prevent incidents reaching levels of physical violence and murder.

We call on the National Police Chief Council to acknowledge the link between reported incidents and crime and to commit to recording and investigating these incidents before they escalate to physical violence.

Signed by members of the National Stalking Consortium:

  • Alice Ruggles Trust
  • Aurora New Dawn
  • Black Country Women’s Aid
  • National Centre for Cyberstalking Research
  • Protection Against Stalking
  • Suzy Lamplugh Trust
  • Stalking NI
  • Veritas
  • Hamish Brown
  • Helen Clutton
  • Dr Frank Farnham
  • Tracey Morgan

The Alice Ruggles Trust adds..

The Alice Ruggles Trust notes that it was only back in May this year that the CPS and NPCC issued a joint protocol to try to ensure that the criminal justice system improves the way it handles stalking and harassment offences. This, together with a Home Office Force Crime Registrar conference in March, to which the Trust contributed, all seek to ensure that stalking is recorded and dealt with as such, not treated as harassment or, worse, just as a series of unrelated crimes or incidents that are not in themselves crimes. To suggest that such incidents might not even be recorded seems to threaten to undermine these important new policies.

Alice was killed by her ex-boyfriend following a relentless campaign of stalking. The police response after her murder was exemplary. On the other hand, we will always wonder whether, if there had been a better police response when she contacted them in the days before he killed her, she would still be alive today. If they had recorded some of his hundreds of attempts to contact her, his unwanted calls, his veiled threats -- and joined the dots, this could have been recognised as a clear case of stalking, the risk could have been managed, and a homicide possibly prevented.