Tag Archives: stalking

Vulnerability still Neglected

Restorative Justice is a technique that can bring great results. However, when it comes to victims experiencing significant vulnerability, we believe RJ should come with a warning “Use with Care”.

We have not focused much attention on the Restorative Justice element of dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour and we are not aware of how extensive the use of the Community Remedy has been.

We have heard from some individual victims who have questioned the suggestion by police that they meet with their harasser or stalker (and at times this suggestion has been quite forceful). It was therefore comforting to read that this is an issue recognised by the police and was specifically mentioned in a speech the Home Secretary delivered last month at the Police Federation Annual Conference. Speaking first about domestic violence, Theresa May said:

“I know that restorative justice is meant to be victim-led and I know that guidance says it should be considered in all cases. But I simply do not believe it follows either the evidence or common sense to sit vulnerable victims across from perpetrators who for months and years may have destroyed their confidence, manipulated their mind, and beaten their bodies.”

She then specifically mentioned victims of stalking and harassment as among the vulnerable people neglected by the police. We are glad to see that this has been noted. There is a recognition that these crimes are still investigated with different tools and often less urgency than other crimes that pose much less risk to individuals and communities.

The purpose of creating the new anti-social behaviour legislation in 2014 was to put victims first and give the police and other agencies quicker, more effective powers to bring respite to those victims. It is concerning, then, to learn that harassment and stalking are still not being tackled as a matter of urgency. As the Home Secretary went on to say:

As HMIC found last year, not a single police force in England and Wales is outstanding at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims, and 31 forces are judged to be either inadequate or requiring improvement.

We have been invited to be part of a police-led ASB vulnerability working group, seeking to develop a cross service / agency vulnerability toolkit and assessment process. The hope is that this group will help drive national standards in this key area through building up appropriate products as well as sharing good practice. It is good to see steps being taken to address these failings and we are delighted to have the opportunity to share the experiences we hear from victims of anti-social behaviour, with a view to ensuring they get a better service and sensitivity to their particular situation.

If you have a story to share, do add your voice to that of others in our survey.

Emily Maitlis opens up about being victim of stalker

I can’t see how it will end.” Emily Maitlis, BBC Newsnight presenter

This weekend all the main newspapers picked up the story that BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had opened up about her nightmare of being a victim of stalking for 25 years. Here is ‘The Guardian’s’ version: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/14/newsnight-presenter-emily-maitlis-opens-up-about-being-victim-of-stalker?CMP=twt_gu

In summary, Maitlis explains that she has been stalked by someone she knew from University and that in spite of convictions for harassing her and bombarding her with messages, it has not deterred him. She feels powerless, fears for her family and has to have an escort to go to the local supermarket as well as for her children to go to the school bus. You can feel the pain in her words:

“There is a weariness to it. It feels never ending. His life is ruined; I try to blank it. It’s a heaviness that sits on you, and when he comes back it’s dreadful. I get calls at all times of the day and night. It feels desperately sad. I can’t see how it will end.”

What’s particularly concerning on reading Emily’s story is those haunting words: “I can’t see how it will end,” How can you not sense the deep weariness of those 25 years of being stalked hanging over her? The conviction and restraining order in place seem to have done little to stop him and so it is no surprise Emily can’t see how it will end.

As a public figure, she is also not in a position to choose to move, hide away and hope he doesn’t find her. Nor should she have to. We were pleased to see that the Daily Mail’s report on this story includes a link to a National Stalking Helpline video.

It does seem, however, that the lack of a resounding cry for justice in any of the reports suggests a certain acceptance that this can be a problem victims must carry for life, through no fault of their own. This is something the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has been campaigning to change. They recently led a Stalking Awareness Week (18th-24th April) and issued a telling report: ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind‘ which shows that a lot more needs to be done to tackle stalking and support the victims, devastated by this crime.

If you are a victim of stalking, you should call the police, but you can also get helpful advice from the National Stalking Helpline.

Stalking not taken Seriously

“There very soon comes a time in stalking/harassment crime when SOMEONE has to do SOMETHING PRACTICAL to intervene. Only they don’t.” ‘Elaine’ of Bristol

We receive a whole variety of stories through our survey which is unsurprising given the breadth of anti-social behaviour. Of great concern, however, are two very similar stories we have read about stalking and the lack of support available to victims. One report comes from Birmingham, the other from Bristol. Both involve more than a decade of stalking. Both remain unresolved. According to ‘Elaine’ in Bristol, even her local Victim Support says there is no practical support available because Elaine still owns her house and is not a victim of domestic abuse.

The new Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2014 does not make this distinction and an owner-occupier should be just as entitled to support and assistance if suffering ASB as a Housing Association or Council tenant. Elaine speaks of local agencies just not wanting to know about stalking/harassment. She says they keep her running rings from one ‘helping’ agency to another and even accuses them of bullying and character assassination when trying to honestly report offences. “Nightmare doesn’t even begin to describe it,” she says. “Life is just not worth living anymore, everything has been taken away from me.”

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She mentions how knowledgeable the National Stalking Helpline is but that they cannot do anything practically but “there very soon comes a time in stalking/harassment crime when SOMEONE has to do SOMETHING PRACTICAL to intervene. Only they don’t. ” With the similar case in Birmingham, we advised the victim to activate the Community Trigger. Unfortunately she was simply told ‘all procedures had been followed’ and was not invited to give her side of the story. Maybe all procedures had been followed, but if she is still a victim of stalking after 14 years, more surely needs to be done!

The Community Trigger is designed to empower victims to insist on a case review. The heart behind it is that victims will get respite from ASB. We sense this is true in only a small minority of cases. However, it is the tool that is available to victims and as such the course of action we would recommend to Elaine. Activate her local Community Trigger and push Victim Support to help give her a voice in the ensuing case review. If rejected and yet she is still being stalked, appeal the decision with her local Police and Crime Commissioner. We may be doubtful about how useful these tools are, but the more people who attempt to get results with them, the more data we have to show their success or where they need improving.