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Action on stalking and harassment

23 May 2018

A package of measures to improve the way that the criminal justice system deals with stalking and harassment has been unveiled today.

The measures - introduced by the CPS and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) - are a significant shift in the way such cases are dealt with.

Central to the package of measures is improved direction for police and prosecutors about how to recognise the difference between stalking and harassment and respond effectively.

A new joint protocol replaces the previous agreement introduced in 2014 by the CPS and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), since superseded by the NPCC.

It is one of several steps being taken in response to a recent joint HMICFRS and HMCPSI report on the police and CPS response to stalking and harassment, in which a number of recommendations were made.

Both the police and CPS acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve how the criminal justice system responds to stalking and harassment cases, particularly around identifying patterns of behaviour rather than looking at incidents in isolation.  

The protocol also gives the clear guidance that Police Information Notices (PINs) are not appropriate to be used in stalking cases.

A number of other steps are being taken to improve the police and CPS response to stalking and harassment cases. These include:

• Refreshed CPS training on stalking and harassment cases, to be undertaken by all prosecutors over the coming months  
• Improving guidance for situations where pleas for harassment are accepted following a stalking charge
• Improving guidance on restraining orders to ensure they are being used appropriately, and that victims are consulted
• Strengthening the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) system, so that police and CPS leads on stalking fully understand the requirements and expectations of the role
• An improved process for monitoring and reviewing how prosecutors deal with stalking and harassment cases
• Updated advice from the College of Policing for police officers on stalking and harassment which is also being developed.

A new checklist has also been introduced for police to complete as part of a referral to the CPS. It ensures victim safety is considered as a priority and requires officers to confirm that the case they are investigating is not a stalking case first and foremost.

CPS Lead for Stalking and Harassment, Joanna Coleman said:  

“Stalking and harassment are often among the most complex offences that police and prosecutors deal with, and frequently involve victims who have faced harrowing experiences at the hands of manipulative offenders.

“Today’s protocol indicates a significant shift in how police and prosecutors are expected to respond to cases. By assessing the full context of an allegation, including the suspect’s behaviour and the cumulative impact that has had on a complainant, police and prosecutors will need to specifically answer why a case does not meet the description of stalking.  

“Investigating and prosecuting these crimes requires a considered approach that looks beyond one-off incidents towards the pattern of behaviour, and how this has affected the safety and wellbeing of a victim and their family.  

“Along with improved training and guidance, we hope this will lead to stalking cases being identified faster, and handled more effectively. Over the next four months all CPS prosecutors will undertake mandatory training on stalking and harassment, which has been developed following the inspectorates’ report.  

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Stalking and Harassment, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said:

“Stalking and harassment offences can have a harrowing, life changing and long-lasting effect on victims. We are committed to bringing offenders to justice and safeguarding victims at the earliest opportunity.  

“Following the publication of the HMICFRS and HMCPSI report in 2017, we acknowledged that we needed to change the way in which police forces deal with these types of offences. This protocol aims to improve the investigation and prosecution of stalking and harassment cases, while enhancing outcomes and keeping victims safe.

“In the past, police too often looked at stalking incidents in isolation, meaning that wefailed to consider the full picture of alleged offending and the associated risks. This protocol requires police and prosecutors to examine the wider circumstances in each case and identify patterns of stalking behaviour.

“The protocol will also require police and prosecutors to regularly review the progress of cases, to ensure that all investigative opportunities are being pursued”.

Chief Executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust Rachel Griffin, said:

“We welcome efforts by the Crown Prosecution Service and police to improve the way that cases of stalking are handled. It is positive that recommendations from the HMICFRS and HMCPSI stalking and harassment report are being taken seriously, and that victim safety is being prioritised within new guidance.

“Stalking affects over one million people every year, and has a significant physical and psychological impact on victims, causing serious distress, alarm and fear. It is vital that professionals across the Criminal Justice System recognise and respond to concerning patterns of behaviours.

“We are pleased to see an increased focus on training and recognition of stalking. We hope that this will improve understanding of this insidious crime across the country, and lead to more early identification and responses to stalking. We look forward to working with the CPS to ensure victims are better protected.”