We often see stalking victims too afraid to ask for help and then relieved when they discover we understand their experiences. Stalking is a crime and the West Midlands Stalking Support Service supports victims to get the help they need. But how is the justice system responding to stalking?
Jason Corden-Bowen, District Crown Prosecutor at the Magistrates’ Court Department, shares more about the role the CPS play in keeping victims safe.
Preventing violence against women and girls, protecting vulnerable victims and tackling stalking, in particular, are regarded as priority areas for the Crown Prosecution Service nationally and especially so in the West Midlands.
For more than two years, we have had a dedicated contact point in the West Midlands for the criminal justice system and other partner agencies to deal with solely with stalking offences. This includes an extensive review of CPS, police and court practices to try and dispel the myths and stereotypes that are associated with stalking and our stalking lead holds monthly meetings with police to try to identify areas for improvement in our collective performance.
We have drafted bespoke training based around psychological profiling of offenders to help identify stalkers and delivered that to all of our lawyers. It has also been given to police forces across the area to help our police partners understand and recognise stalking behaviour from an early stage. While we have seen significant improvements locally in identifying and prosecuting stalkers, we know the profound impact that this offending has on victims, particularly if they are already feeling isolated in the current crisis.
To provide further protection to victims, we helped to draft the legislation that brought in Stalking Protection Orders. The police can apply to the court for one of these orders to stop the stalker from contacting or approaching the victim while the case is being investigated and before any charges have been brought.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that civil orders are being prioritised by the magistrates’ courts, which means during the pandemic crisis, domestic violence protection orders and stalking protection orders can still be applied for. This week in the Black Country a Stalking Protection Order was granted by the court without any of the parties attending, and this demonstrates that the courts, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service continue to take stalking seriously.
We fully support National Stalking Awareness Week and continue to support victims of crime.
If you are worried or concerned about someone else’s behaviour, whether that is an ex-partner, a neighbour, or an acquaintance, remember the mnemonic FOUR:
Fixated: Has the person been following or visiting the victim and won’t leave them alone?
Obsessive: Have they been monitoring email or social media, or ordering things for the victim?
Unwanted: Have there been unwanted gifts, texts or messages?
Repetitive: Has that behaviour been repeated and continued?
If the answer is yes, then the behaviour is likely to be stalking. If you are concerned about your safety or someone else’s safety, we urge you to report it to the police. The police take this seriously. The Crown Prosecution Service take this seriously, and the courts also take this seriously.
These are extraordinary times for us all, but they are not times for us to be any less vigilant and the Crown Prosecution Service will do all we can to protect and secure justice for victims of crime.
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact the West Midlands Stalking Support Service for advice, help and support. You can: