Ahead of Stalking Awareness Week, PCC Steve Turner has called on police forces to utilise all powers available to them to safeguard victims of stalking.
A Home Office review of the use of new Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) found that just 25 had been issued in the North East between January 2020 and January 2021 – with one interim order issued in Cleveland.
Legislation passed in 2019 granted police powers to apply to Magistrates’ Courts for the new civil orders, which place restrictions on suspects to address stalking behaviours before they escalate or become entrenched.
Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner said: “Stalking is a terrifying ordeal for victims and the fear of their stalker can prevent them enjoying their lives to the full.
“Stalking protection orders can be very effective in restricting the behaviour of suspects before they are convicted, reducing any further distress or harm caused to their victim while police investigate.
“It’s important that all police forces see them as a powerful tool and use them where appropriate to safeguard victims and prevent further harm.”
How Cleveland Police responds to reports of stalking and harassment has been the focus of a recent scrutiny session the PCC held with leaders of the force.
Steve highlighted a complaint received by the Commissioner’s office via domestic abuse agency My Sister’s Place, in which a victim raised concerns about why a SPO was not used.
Lesley Storey, Chief Executive of My Sister’s Place said: “MSP welcome the PCCs scrutiny and oversight of Cleveland Police’s interventions to tackle stalking. At a time when victim confidence and trust in police is sadly low, it is important that areas of concern are highlighted and addressed.
“Stalking Protection Orders are a valuable tool that victims’ advocates have campaigned to have in place. Stalking isn’t simply a nuisance, it’s potentially a high-risk situation that precedes serious harm and homicide. We want to see more orders being utilised – victims need this protection.”
Between 1st January and 31st December 2021, Cleveland Police received 1635 reports of stalking and 4394 reports of harassment.
Since the PCC’s scrutiny session, the force have secured a further interim SPO against a persistent stalking perpetrator.
Senior leaders from the force also provided the PCC with information about other types of civil orders they successfully secure to protect victims of domestic abuse, such as non-molestation orders or domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs).
Steve feels the force still has some way to go on this issue and has requested further discussions take place between the PCC’s team and Cleveland Police in relation to stalking.
Specialist help is available for victims living in Middlesbrough, as part of the Safer Streets 3 programme.
My Sisters Place (MSP) employs a specialist stalking Independent domestic violence advocate (IDVA.) The service is targeted at victims who have suffered persistent harassment or who have an established relationship with their stalker. To contact MSP, go to: My Sisters Place – Get In Touch
A specialist Victim Support Officer based at the Victim Care, Advice and Support Service (VCAS) helps victims of harassment, stalking and sexual assault. The service is aimed at victims, who do not currently access specialist support services. To contact VCAS, go to: Victim Care & Advice Service