Press Release – Research Into Stalking Victims’ Experiences of the CPS, HMCTS, and the Judiciary – Suzy Lamplugh trust

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New research highlights the CPS, HM courts, and judiciary response to stalking victims, which is leaving many unprotected. 

  • Findings from Suzy Lamplugh Trust show only 1.4% of reports of stalking to police ended in the stalker being convicted in year ending March 2022. 
  • This is despite the stalking law having been introduced over a decade ago, suggesting a lack of understanding of stalking throughout the CPS and judiciary. 

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust on behalf of the National Stalking Consortium has released preliminary research detailing a lack of understanding in relation to behaviours that constitute stalking within the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, and the judiciary, leading to an appallingly low number of charges, and an even lower number of convictions. 

The National Stalking Consortium, which is comprised of 21 stalking specialists including frontline services, victims and academics, have collated case studies to illustrate the issues that are putting many stalking victims at risk and that warrant further investigation. Only 6.6% of reports of stalking to the police in the year ending March 2022 resulted in a charge by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Only 1.4% of cases in that same year ended in the stalker being convicted.  

One victim who was diagnosed with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) described the impact of the stalking as “killing her inside as it’s been going on for so long that it’s mentally and physically made me ill”. After her case was postponed at court multiple times, she said to us: “this is like a cancer, it goes on and on and I never get closure”. “I don’t understand how they [the court] allow another hearing and keep extending the case […] I feel this case has taken over my life […] I just want this to be over so I can move on with my life”.    

The report suggests a lack of understanding among prosecutors as to what behaviours constitute stalking, as well as a failure to acknowledge the mental health impacts of stalking when making charging decisions (91.5% of victims experienced psychological impacts due to stalking1). In some cases, the crime is charged as another offence such as harassment, thus setting a course for an incorrect pathway through the court process and a lack of adequate risk management for the victim. Some victims describe how their stalking cases are simply dropped altogether due to a perceived lack of evidence, despite clear indications of stalking behaviours. 

The National Stalking Consortium is also highly concerned that the lack of understanding of stalking extends to the judiciary. Magistrates’ courts which are responsible for issuing Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) that offer victims additional protection, often dismiss the need for them on the grounds that other orders (such as restraining orders) are already in place. This is despite SPOs being the most efficient way to protect a victim from stalking behaviours.   

Drawing on victim testimony, the report proposes several recommendations in order to thoroughly investigate the issues brought up and begin to implement change to improve the CPS, HMCTS and judicial response to stalking, including: 

  • The creation of an independent task group to look further into the criminal justice process when it comes to stalking cases in England and Wales, from the point of charge to the trial in court. This group must ensure that all issues raised in these case studies are investigated thoroughly at a national level and addressed in order to ensure that the CPS, HMCTS and the judiciary adequately support victims of stalking.   
  • Any professional in the criminal justice system involved in any investigation or legal proceedings involving stalking (namely the Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates, judges, HMCTS personnel working on stalking cases, probation and police) must complete relevant specialist stalking training. This is vital to ensure the identification of the patterns of behaviour that amount to stalking and the associated risk to the victim when charging the crime, as well as understanding the stalking legislation correctly, including SPOs, to ensure victims are adequately supported and protected.  
  • Measures must be put in place to mitigate the potential distress caused to stalking victims throughout the court process. As part of this, any delays to hearings must be minimised and victims kept fully informed.  
  • The CPS and HMCTS must work with the police, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the National Probation Service to implement a unified recording system which allows one to follow the journey of a victim and all incidents associated with them, from reporting stage through to conviction and sentencing. This must facilitate a clearer understanding of the reasons behind the high attrition rates for stalking across England and Wales.  

Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, says: “The Suzy Lamplugh Trust supports thousands of stalking victims every year, and many tell us that they are being let down on their journey to justice. A lack of understanding of stalking results in incorrect charges or cases being dropped altogether, putting victims at risk of further acts of stalking and increasing the potential psychological and physical harm they are likely to suffer. We urge the CPS, HMCTS and judiciary to implement our recommendations to improve their response to stalking across the country. The system must enable victims to achieve the safety and justice they deserve.” 

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