Following the tragic death of Gracie Spinks in June 2021, the “Gracie’s Law” petition calls for the Government to provide more funding for advocates for stalking victims. Having been signed by more than 100,000 people, the petition triggered a parliamentary debate, which duly took place on January 31, 2022. This is just the beginning: we now need to ensure that the campaign actually results in significant improvements.
1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men will be stalked during their lifetime. Stalking is always highly distressing and frequently life-changing. Victims often fear for their lives, and with good reason: in the worst cases, stalking can—and all too often does—escalate to homicide.
One of the best ways to support victims is via Independent Stalking Advocate Caseworkers (ISACs). these are people professionally trained to recognise the risk factors in each individual case. They help and support victims, both emotionally and practically, and they liaise with criminal justice and other agencies who need to be involved in managing the risk. They really do help save lives.*
Gracie’s parents, like Alice’s, firmly believe that the intervention of an ISAC could have made a crucial difference in their daughter's case, and that with such an intervention their daughter might still be alive today.
The Alice Ruggles Trust supports the Gracie’s Law campaign because:
- The problem is immense. By the government’s own estimates, quoted in their response to the Gracie’s Law petition, there were some 1.5m stalking victims (1m female, 0.5m male) in the UK during 2019/20.
- Current funding earmarked specifically for stalking victims is woefully inadequate. Even with the additional amounts granted during lockdown, Government funding specifically for stalking advocates (to the National Stalking Helpline and Paladin, just over 0.25m in total) amounts to just 17p per victim. While charities and other agencies do provide local support services in some areas, they have to compete for funding from other pots, resulting in patchy coverage with no guarantee of continuity.
- Not all stalking occurs in a domestic abuse context (around 50% of victims are not stalked by an ex-partner) and not all stalking victims are females stalked by men. This means that stalking is not by any means completely covered by funding currently provided or proposed for victims of Domestic Abuse or Violence Against Women and Girls, nor is any of it earmarked.
***Only ring-fenced funding, specifically earmarked for stalking, will address this.***
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on the morning of the debate (see inset), Alice’s father Clive called for £4 million p.a. to be earmarked to ensure that there are always at least two ISACs at all times in each police force area. This will not solve the problem but will be a huge step in the right direction.
Please support the Gracie’s Law campaign by writing to your MP, or your Police and Crime Commissioner, and publicise your support however you can.
A new law to help victims of stalking will be debated in parliament today.— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) January 31, 2022
Alice Ruggles was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2016. Her dad Clive tells #BBCBreakfast more government funding is needed, to better support victims and their familieshttps://t.co/HFU1NkNNoP pic.twitter.com/TTI5JW0RiY
* Nikki Penniston, head of strategic partnerships at Black Country Women’s Aid, said this following their introduction of ISACs back in 2018:
“There is no doubt that our new stalking service has become an essential part of our integrated specialist abuse support model. Domestic abuse specialists provide invaluable support to victims of intimate or ex-intimate stalking ... but the stalking risk assessment scores are high, demonstrating that risk is actually increasing, and therefore needs to be urgently addressed. Specialist risk assessment and safety planning to address stalking behaviour are essential to keep the victim and their family safe, and crucially is different to domestic abuse risk assessment.
“Our stalking project is very different to our domestic abuse and sexual violence work. We have a vital role in challenging criminal justice colleagues to recognise the risk and take stalking seriously. Equally, we can now offer a service to victims of stranger, acquaintance or colleague stalking who, before now, would have had no local specialist support whatsoever. We have become very busy, very quickly, and can clearly see the need for specialist services for stalking victims and have had that message repeated by partners.”