Police crime commissioner Katy Bourne says the force has made ‘critical errors’ in the past dealing with the crime.
In 2017 Portslade teenager Shana Grice was killed by a jealous ex -boyfriend who had previously been reported to the police. The CPS said the police force didn't know enough about dealing the crime.
At the start of National Stalking Week and #StandUpToStalking the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner Katie Bourne has reassured victims that the pattern of behavior of a perpetrator will be looked at and not just isolated incidents.
Mrs Bourne, who has her own malevolent experience of stalking, is calling on her fellow PCCs, police forces and criminal justice agencies to join the dots and understand the behaviour of stalking and to stop treating each case as a separate incident but to look for the pattern in the perpetrator’s behaviour.
Commenting ahead of her speaking engagement at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust event next week, Mrs Bourne said: “One in five women and one in ten men will experience stalking at some stage in their life. It became a crime in 2012 but, six years later, it is still not properly understood. Many police forces are still failing victims and this has also been the case in Sussex where we have sadly had some awful cases of stalking, one of which led to the murder of Shana Grice. More recently, we had the case of a St Leonards’ woman who was stalked and tormented by her own husband who was pretending to be someone else.
The reality is that thousands of ordinary women and men are being harmfully stalked by former partners, casual acquaintances and, very often, complete strangers.
I had my own experience of fixated stalking over a five year period which led me to seek an injunction against a local man who had followed me online and in person, and written and posted hundreds of pages of false news and dozens of malicious videos. So I have every sympathy for the thousands of victims and I share their frustration when the system doesn’t respond in a compassionate and constructive way.
That is why I am passionately committed to providing support to victims of stalking. It was clear from my review that a comprehensive response was required so I provided a two-year grant totaling £92,500 (co-commissioned with Sussex Police) to fund a local, specialist service provided by Veritas Justice, for victims in Sussex.
I am really pleased that Sussex Police have acknowledged their training and development needs and that senior officers are as committed as I am to ensuring the Force understands stalking.
I invested a large part of last year’s precept rise into the Public Protection Unit and the Force is now better equipped and better trained to recognise and deal with stalking. As a result of improvements to training for officers and prosecutors, last year Sussex Police saw an average 300% increase in reports of stalking and three times as many cases have been solved compared to the previous 12 months.
If we can see such a massive increase in Sussex, it tells me that there is a serious lack of understanding of stalking across police forces and victims are probably being let down.
One of the accountability tools I have as a PCC is to bring independent, external scrutiny to policing. That is why I have commissioned HMICFRS (the independent Inspectorate) to conduct a thorough review of the way Sussex Police now deals with stalking and to help me understand where they need to improve.
I will continue to raise awareness of stalking with all our statutory agencies to help give victims the confidence to report it and empower them to fight back.
Remember, stalking can be defined as the dangerous FOUR if the behaviour is: Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted or Repeated. So don’t suffer in silence - report stalking and make sure police understand how the behaviour is making you feel.”
You can #StandUpToStalking by signing up to the PCC’s day cause, here.