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PUBLICATION EMBARGOED TO 0001 HOURS, WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL - New report says Sussex Police has made significant improvements to the way it responds to stalking and harassment

News   •   Apr 09, 2019 15:17 BST

                           PUBLICATION EMBARGOED TO 0001 HOURS, WEDNESDAY 10 APRIL

Sussex Police has made significant improvements to the way it responds to stalking and harassment, according to a report published today (10 April)

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue (HMICFRS) carried out an inspection at the end of last year, commissioned by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: “The report acknowledges that we have significantly improved our understanding of what stalking and harassment is, and what our response should be. It also sets out where there is even more work to do and we accept this.

“Stalking and harassment has a long-term and debilitating effect on victims and we will continue to make improvements to ensure people are safe and can feel safe, and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

The report acknowledges progress by Sussex Police to date including:

  • more victims feeling confident to come forward, with stalking reports having risen by 540% in three years.
  • increased awareness amongst officers and staff, including call handlers, those joining our investigations teams and all new recruits, on how to spot signs of stalking.
  • specialists on hand offering advice and support on a daily basis, and a better understanding and a more joined up approach with training for the CPS and local statutory and voluntary partners.
  • a comprehensive policy for supporting victims and support of independent stalking advocacy caseworkers from Veritas Justice, funded by the OSPCC, to work with people affected by stalking.
  • an improvement plan that is under constant review, with us reinforcing national protocol and guidance.

ACC May adds: “Following the tragic death of Shana Grice who was murdered at her home in Portslade in 2016, we are committed to improving our understanding of stalking and harassment and our response to it.

“The inspection has provided a benchmark of progress made to date but Sussex Police are the second highest recorder of stalking offences after the Met.

“It shows our charging percentage average has decreased as a proportion of its recorded crime but there are numerous reasons why victims do not always wish to support a criminal conviction. We are pleased that victims have the confidence to contact us so we can help support and protect them, even if this doesn’t mean that a prosecution is the final outcome.”

To improve our service we are directing more prompt handovers to investigators, we have removed Police Information Notices PINS and are ensuring risk assessments when identifying stalking patterns of behaviour. We are providing appropriate staff with enhanced training and raising awareness that when there are breaches of restraining orders full previous offending history should be taken into account.

Stalking crimes can be among the most dangerous and damaging to victims. Any behaviour which causes alarm, distress or fear of violence is unacceptable, and we are committed to keeping people safe when they report stalking and harassment.

We would like to thank Veritas Justice for continuing to support valuable training for officers and staff, and for their support to victims and to officers and staff for raising awareness.

“This report coincides with a campaign by the force in support of National Stalking Awareness Week. We encourage victims to come forward with the knowledge that our officers and staff are better trained and that they will take all reports seriously. We are absolutely aware of the consequences if our response is not the correct one, so we want to ensure that victims have confidence in how both police and the CPS will support them.”

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "This HMICFRS inspection is the first to be commissioned by a Police and Crime Commissioner. It provides me with independent, external scrutiny and a unique and valuable opportunity to review the progress Sussex Police has made in its response to stalking and harassment.

"Whilst it identifies good practice within other police forces, it also highlights significant areas for improvement for policing nationally and for respective partners which is why I have convened a roundtable of Police and Crime Commissioners who will be meeting in Westminster today (Wednesday 10 April).

"This discussion will give policing and victims’ leads from across the country the opportunity to stand together against stalking and, for the first time ever, to talk openly about vital national improvements that need to be made in order to properly safeguard victims.

"Having read the report, I can see there are five key areas that we need to discuss: the police (including a victim’s own) knowledge and understanding of stalking; police procedures including recording incidents correctly and making appropriate risk assessments; and the capacity within the victim support system to provide specialist local services.

"Whilst I am pleased to see the report acknowledge significant progress by Sussex Police, it is clear there is much more the Force can do and needs to do if victims of stalking are to receive the service which I firmly believe they deserve. HMICFRS’s observations show that Sussex is committed to a journey of improvement and is probably further down that path than many other forces nationally.

"I am pleased to say that the Victims Minister has asked me to present to him our collective thoughts and recommendations from the roundtable so that PCCs can work with Government to inform the national response to stalking and harassment and ensure that victims are given the best advice, the necessary protection and the most appropriate support."

For information about the Sussex Police campaign in support of National Stalking Awareness Week see the force website.

You can report stalking or harassment online by calling 101 or in person at your local police station.

But always call 999 if you are in danger. Our officers and staff will undertake a risk assessment and will focus on keeping you safe.

If you would like further information about stalking or harassment, there are several organisations that specialise in providing advice and support to victims.

Veritas is a local organisation which provides advocacy and support for victims of stalking. 

The National Stalking Helpline provides advice and guidance to current or previous victims of stalking or harassment. The helpline can be contacted on 0808 802 0300.

Paladin support high risk victims of stalking with their specialist Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers (ISAC) and ensure that a coordinated community response is developed locally to protect victims. Contact them at 0207 840 8960 or by emailing info@paladinservice.co.uk

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust provides practical personal safety advice - 020 7091 0014

Newsdesk Guidance; For further information about the HMICFRS report contact their press office on 020 3513 0600,