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July 6th 2017

Police Misconduct

Stalking and Harassment Crimes Badly Handled by Police, Report Says

Vicky Richardson

Vicky Richardson

Manager, Civil Liberties

Stalking and Harassment Crimes Badly Handled by Police, Report Says

Victims of stalking and harassment are being left at risk by the police, a new report suggests, with crimes not being reported and complaints not taken seriously. The report, published by the Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), found that crimes of persistence weren’t logged by police officers, and others weren’t investigated — with poor management offering scant legal protection for victims.

Victims of stalking and harassment are being left at risk by the police, a new report suggests, with crimes not being reported and complaints not taken seriously.

The report, published by the Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), found that crimes of persistence weren’t logged by police officers, and others weren’t investigated — with poor management offering scant legal protection for victims.

Of the 112 cases inspected as part of the report, not a single one was found to have been investigated properly, raising questions about the police’s commitment to victims of stalking and harassment.

In its report, the HMIC spoke to several stalking victims who felt they had been abandoned by the police after reporting a case of harassment. Shockingly, one victim said she was made to feel at fault for receiving abusive social media messages, after a police officer told her she shouldn’t have been on Facebook.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the report is the fact that police officers are failing to recognise repeat patterns of stalking and harassment, choosing instead to log incidents as one-off crimes. This means victims repeatedly targeted by a stalker aren’t being safeguarded by authorities, placing them at increased risk of more serious offences such as assault, rape or murder.

This lack of appreciation for the “bigger harassment picture” possibly suggests that police don’t respect the scale of harm and psychological trauma posed by stalkers — or the fear suffered by their victims. The public should expect incidents of harassment to be recorded and investigated thoroughly by the police, and where the required threshold is met, their case should be referred to the CPS.

More Must be Done to Protect Harassment Victims

As part of the joint report between the HMIC and HMCPSI, investigators spoke to Helen Pearson, who reported her stalker to the police 125 times over 5 years. She said police treated her “like a nuisance” and “didn’t know what to do” regarding her harassment, which ended with her being stabbed and left for dead by her abuser.

Helen’s case demonstrates the importance that harassment claims are properly managed and investigated by police, especially when the victim has made similar complaints in the past. Speaking to the BBC, Laura Richards of the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service said that too many harassment victims are exposed to “murder in slow motion”, and that the police must do more to educate their officers on recording, investigating and managing stalking crimes.

While police chiefs have pledged to do more to safeguard victims of stalking and improve performance, the current spending cuts and lack of resources may mean that frontline officers continue to overlook the complaints of harassment victims — with potentially disastrous consequences.

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