Family Law Solicitors, Major Family Law, Newcastle and North East’s specialist family law firm state as stalking-related prosecutions rise, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is reminding both prosecutors and police to focus on the devastating impact these crimes have upon the victims. After the first full year of operation, new stalking legislation has seen 743 cases brought to court – cases which may not have been charged under previous law.
Prosecutions for all stalking and harassment offences, using both new and older legislation, have increased from 8,648 in 2012-13 to 10,535 last year. Breaches of restraining orders and non-molestation orders, the vast majority of which relate to domestic violence cases and can involve stalking-related behaviours, have also seen the number of prosecutions brought to court rise from 15,838 in 2012-13 to 18,149 in 2013-14.
In order to maintain this upward trend, the CPS and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have launched a new protocol to ensure consistency of approach when tackling all forms of stalking. The new Protocol on the Appropriate Handling of Stalking Offences, which has been jointly drafted and agreed by the CPS and ACPO, focuses strongly on the needs of stalking victims. It reminds police and prosecutors to:
- ensure that in every case the victim has the opportunity to provide a Victim Personal Statement to court and is able to read this out personally should they wish;
- fully investigate the reasons behind any victim withdrawing a complaint, ensuring it is not the result of pressure from others;
- ensure that victims are consulted on issues such as bail and restraining orders.
- The protocol also instructs prosecutors to apply, where possible, for restraining orders on both conviction and acquittal in order to protect the ongoing safety and security of victims.
Legislation which came into force in November 2012 allows prosecutors to bring charges where an offender’s behaviour falls short of fear of violence, but where a victim is caused serious alarm or distress affecting their lifestyle.
Assistant Chief Constable and National Policing Lead for Stalking and Harassment, Gary Shewan, said: “More people than ever are being prosecuted and convicted for stalking but we know that there are still many more stalkers getting away with it and victims at risk who are suffering immensely. We are determined to increase the number of stalkers brought to justice and ensure that measures are put in place to protect victims even if a conviction isn’t possible; if police and prosecutors follow this protocol we can achieve this aim. I will be working with chief officers across the country to ensure that this protocol is shared and used by officers on the ground.”