- 2020 National Women's Conference
- 24 October 2019
- Carried as Amended
The crime of stalking can be simply described as the unwanted pursuit of another person. Examples of this type of behaviour includes following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. Stalking is a horrific crime which can cause victims, their families and loved ones immense physical, psychological and emotional harm yet it is dismissed by many of those who have not been affected by it. While there is no one simple type of stalker or victim, women are more frequently the victims (1 in 5 women will experience stalking of some form in their life). Statistics show that 80.4% of victims are female while 70.5% of perpetrators are male (National Stalking Helpline 2011). Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows up to 700,000 women are stalked each year yet conviction rates are low at around 4%. For women, stalking can have a �substantial adverse effect on the usual day-to-day activities�. Examples might include fitting more security devices, changing routes to work or arranging for others to pick up children from school to avoid the attentions of a stalker. They often report feelings of phobia, isolation, anxiety, depression and fear; and are often unable to eat, sleep or carry out their day to day activities. They experience panic attacks and suicidal thoughts and may self-harm.In 1986 in broad daylight while showing someone around a house in Fulham 25 year old Susy Lamplugh disappeared. Now the Suzy Lamplugh trust is a leading figure in the battle against stalking trying to ensure that what happened to Suzy does not happen to anyone else. The National Stalking Helpline created in 2010 has received over 30,000 calls and emails from victims of stalking needing our help. The trust has worked with over 1,000 organizations, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, providing Lone Working and Personal Safety training.Yet despite the awareness raised by the Susy Lamplugh Trust and amendments to the law fatal instances of stalking still occur and are not pursued properly by the police. For example 19 year old Shana Grice was murdered in 2016. She was in her bedroom in East Sussex; her stalker slit her throat and then tried to burn her body. She had previously reported her ex-boyfriend to the police 5 times in a period of 6 months. Instead of protecting her she was fined �90 for wasting police time and the case was closed. A report commissioned after her death found that the Sussex Police did not properly investigate her claims.While a high percentage of stalking occurs following a breakup of a relationship there are still numerous cases where the perpetrator is merely an acquaintance or even unknown to the victim. Many workplaces insist that employees wear name badges. In today�s era of information technology it is all too easy for a stalker to track someone down once they know their name. Lone workers also are put in danger as was Suzy Lamplugh. The Workplace Violence Research Institute found that 90% of corporate security professionals had handled 3 or more incidents where men had stalked women in the workplace and claimed that in 15% of cases stalking was related to homicide (Smock and Kuennen 2002). Workplaces need to consider these things and ensure that they have plans in place.The first laws that dealt with stalking in the UK were introduced in 1997 as part of the Protection from Harassment Act but were inadequate. In 2012 amendments to the Act made stalking a specific offence in England and Wales for the first time. The amendments were made under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. These amendments can only be used to deal with stalking incidents that occur after 25 November 2012; stalking prior to this will still be dealt with as �harassment� under sections 2 and 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act. Yet in Scotland stalking was not recognised as a serious crime until 2010 when stalking was prosecuted as a form of harassment under the common law �Breach of the Peace� which did not fully encompass, define or reflect the seriousness of stalking and victim impact. In 2010 the Justice Committee at Scottish Parliament cast a unanimous vote for proposed anti-stalking legislation to be included into Scotland�s Criminal Justice System. In the UK eight police and crime commissioners have commissioned services that specifically work with victims of stalking in 2017-2018, including Dame Vera Baird, PCC for Northumbria, whose local service employs a stalking and harassment lead, and Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex, who has commissioned Veritas Justice to provide a local advocacy and support service for victims of stalking. But this leaves 34 other areas where police and crime commissioners failed to commission services that specifically work with victims of stalking in 2017-2018. Police and crime commissioners receive �68m from the Ministry of Justice to fund emotional and practical support for victims but, in 2017-2018, 0.25% of this was spent on stalking-specific outcomes. This represents a small increase from 0.18% in 2016In the UK stalking is punishable by a fine and/or up to 51 weeks imprisonment. The second aggravated and more serious offence (stalking causing fear of violence or serious alarm or distress) is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. The police may get a warrant from Magistrates to enter and search premises for evidence of either offence. Considering the lasting damage caused to victims the sentencing structure does not take into account the impact of harm to the victim.1)Conference asks National Women�s Committee to work with Labour Link to work together towards changing the law to recognise the severity of stalking as a crime and introducing standardised procedures within the police and sentences from the judiciary throughout the UK.2)Conference asks National Women�s Committee to work with Labour Link to work together towards raising awareness and understanding in the health services of the damaging impact stalking has on the victims to enable them to provide support.3))Conference also request the National Women�s Committee to work with Labour Link to work together towards introducing some sort of awareness campaign towards educating people so that they realise the severity of stalking as a crime and the mental and physical damage it does to the victims.