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Stalking analysis reveals domestic abuse link

CPS finds that the majority of offences are committed by ex-partners

Stalking is increasingly being recognised as a form of domestic abuse within the criminal justice system, with CPS analysis finding the majority of offences are committed by ex-partners.

A record 2,288 charges were brought in 2019-20 – more than double the number five years previously. This is partly driven by better recognition among police and prosecutors of stalking as part of a wider pattern of domestic abuse.

CPS analysis of stalking prosecutions this year – the first exercise of its kind – found that most offences were committed by abusive ex-partners. Of stalking cases sampled at random from across England and Wales, 84 per cent involved complaints against ex-partners and three-quarters reported domestic abuse had previously occurred during the relationship.

The data was released to mark the UN's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

Joanna Coleman, CPS national lead for stalking prosecutions, said:

"Stalking is an abhorrent offence which leaves victims traumatised, humiliated and often in genuine fear of their lives. I am very encouraged to see our work in this area reflected in a record number of stalking prosecutions, however we recognise there is always more to be done. My message to stalking and domestic abuse victims is this – no matter the coronavirus restrictions in place, the CPS and criminal justice system is open for business and we will treat your case as high priority."

The CPS analysed a random cross-section of 50 stalking prosecutions completed between April and June 2020 across all 14 of its regional offices. In every case involving an ex-partner, victims were bombarded with unwanted and often threatening phone contact and were physically stalked at their home or place of work. Social media was cited as a significant factor in 17 cases, with offenders usually creating multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts to get around being blocked by their victims.

Three cases involved the disclosing of private sexual images – so-called "revenge porn", with one woman's photos sent to her manager by an ex. In two cases, trackers were put on the victims' cars and one involved an attempted abduction. In eight prosecutions, the victim and perpetrator had not been in a relationship. These involved friends, colleagues or strangers developing fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated attention towards victims.

Recent data from the National Stalking Helpline, run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust, found that 100 per cent of reports involved some form of digital stalking, with this pattern intensifying over the lockdown periods of this year. Victims describe themselves a "sitting ducks" with perpetrators having more time on their hands.

Police are urging stalking victims "not to suffer in silence", with it taking an average of 100 incidents before they report the crime.

Suky Bhaker, chief executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said:

"The impact of stalking is devastating and can infiltrate every aspect of a victim's life, with 78% of victims reporting symptoms consistent with PTSD according to a recent pilot study. It is important that victims report this crime and seek specialist support."