Anti-stalking activists have launched a super complaint against police, claiming officers fail to identify offenders, properly investigate crimes or protect victims.
A group of 21 people and expert organizations called the National Stalking Consortium said there are systemic problems with the way stalking is tackled, with just 5% of cases in England and Wales ending in a charge.
Suky Bhaker, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which set up the consortium, said a significant number of stalking victims are being let down by the police.
Super-complaint, a measure used to highlight broader problems or trends in policing, is being pushed forward 10 years by a law change that made stalking a specific offence.
Ms Bhaker said: “We support thousands of victims each year through our National Stalking Service and a significant number of them tell us they are let down by the police and the courts at every stage of their journey to justice.
“Failure to identify and investigate stalking as early as possible results in an increased risk of physical and psychological harm to the victim.
“We hope the outcome of this super-complaint translates into robust recommendations to improve police response to stalking across the country, which is so vital.”
Activists say police fail to identify patterns of behavior and often treat incidents as lower-level crimes such as harmful communications or criminal damage.
They said they are “very concerned” that stalking claims are not being properly investigated because officers mistakenly believe there is not enough evidence and that stalking protection orders are not used often enough.
Claire Waxman, London’s Victims Commissioner and herself a victim of stalking, said: “Too many victims of stalking are being let down by the police and the justice system in general, with stalking behavior ignored or downplayed and restraining order breaches not taken seriously. serious enough.
“I fully support the National Stalking Consortium’s super-complaint, which highlights a number of failures in the way stalking cases are handled, putting victims at risk of further harm and causing unnecessary suffering.
“While I had hoped that the revised stalking legislation would lead to better protections and justice for victims, 10 years of the charge remains unacceptably low.
“It is clear that the justice system is still struggling to identify and address stalking decisively, leaving too many victims suffering and at risk. Change is overdue because victims of stalking deserve to be protected.”
Once the super complaint is filed, a watchdog will decide if he is eligible for the investigation.
The head of the National Council of Chiefs of Police on Stalking and Harassment, Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, said: ‘Harassment and stalking are serious crimes that can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims and their friends and family. .
“Stalking is a crime that goes to the very heart of violence against women and girls, robbing them of their sense of security.
“It is recognized that there is much that needs to be done to improve the outcomes of the criminal justice system for victims of stalking and we are working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to understand the progress of cases to the point of indictment and to the court “.
Police in England and Wales issued more than 400 stalking protection orders in 2020 and expect the number to rise.
The number of stalking crimes recorded by law enforcement agencies has also increased, which the chiefs say is due to increased awareness of abusive behavior.