Sussex Police has seen a dramatic increase in stalking reports since the death of 19-year-old Shana Grice.
In the last year, Sussex Police has seen a 335 per cent increase in reports of stalking – 295 in 2016/17 and 988 in 2017/18 – and said increased awareness by officers since the high-profile case could be a factor.
It cites other reasons for the rise as increasing confidence by victims and more accurate recording by police.
Mile Oak teenager Shana Grice was murdered by her stalker ex-boyfriend Michael Lane in August 2016. He was found guilty of the murder in 2017 and handed a 25-year prison sentence.
In court, the jury heard how Miss Grice contacted police to report that she was being stalked by Lane, but was later fined for wasting police time after failing to disclose she was in an ‘on-off relationship’ with him.
Sussex Police was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the case, and the force was given six learning recommendations to improve the way the it handles cases involving stalking and harassment.
Now the force said the increase in stalking reports could be down to changes its made since the case.
From April 2016 to March 2017, Sussex Police said it recorded 295 offences relating to stalking – 60 in Brighton and Hove, 149 in West Sussex and 86 in East Sussex.
There were 46 charges resulting from those incidents, with two cases under investigation. Twelve resulted in police cautions and one was dealt with by community resolution. The other cases did not result in enforcement action after investigation, police said.
And in the period from April 2017 to March 2018 the force recorded 988 such offences – 240 in Brighton and Hove, 443 in West Sussex, 304 in East Sussex and one at Gatwick. From that period there have been 116 charges, 124 cases still under investigation, 21 resulting in formal police caution and one community resolution.
Police said reasons for no enforcement action after investigation include insufficient evidence and the unwillingness of victims to support prosecution. But the force added that it can lead to safeguarding action, advice and ongoing support.
National figures show that two-thirds of stalking cases involve intimate or ex-intimate partner relationships, with the remainder being acquaintance or stranger cases.
Sussex Police said 90 per cent of its officers and staff had completed stalking and harassment training, with 700 officers having additional training on stalking and stalking behaviours.
Detective Chief Inspector Pierre Serra, speaking at the start of National Stalking Awareness Week, said: “We have improved our understanding of what stalking and harassment is and what our response should be. This is being reinforced force wide through sharing of guidance, training and reviewing stalking cases. We are absolutely aware of the consequences if our response is not the correct one, so we need to ensure that victims have confidence in how both police and the CPS will support them.
“We were one of the six forces who last year gave the Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) full access to our work and although it contained no specific recommendations for Sussex Police alone, we have been using it to further review and refine our systems and training, including the way in which we work with the CPS.
“This is a very important issue and a comprehensive policy for supporting victims is in place, updated recently following consultation with Veritas Justice and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, both of which gave us invaluable feedback on our policy.
“The force has also been carrying out extra work with Paladin, a national organisation which supports high risk victims of stalking with their specialist Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers (ISACs). They have trained a selected number of officers across Sussex who will have an extra level of specialism in this area of work. They are able to advise and support our other investigators whenever needed.
“In addition, thanks to funding by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, community interest company Veritas Justice provide independent stalking advocacy caseworkers who are working with people affected by stalking. Veritas have also been providing extra training for officers and staff, including our call handlers, on how to spot signs of stalking. They have also delivered this training to our local statutory and voluntary partners across Sussex.”
It is against the law to stalk or harass someone. Harassment refers to any behaviour which causes a person alarm or distress or puts them in fear of violence;
While there is no legal definition of stalking, it relates to persistent and unwanted attention. It may appear as a series of trivial incidents when looked at individually, however when put together show a pattern of obsessive and fixated behaviour.
You can report stalking or harassment online, by calling 101 or in person at your local police station.
Always call 999 if you are in danger.
For more advice from police on stalking, visit: www.sussex.police.uk/advice/support-for-victims/stalking-and-harassment