Understanding the priorities of a Government are not always easy, however thanks to perseverance from Susan Nye who is one of the unelected peers in the House of Lords, we now know that the Government is not treating the crime of stalking seriously and despite a few warm words and promise of changes to the law it is clear that stalking is not currently a priority for them. Let us hope that Susan Nye does not give up and that in time the Government is forced to take this matter seriously. Although I have not had any personal experience of stalking, as a Street Pastor I have intervened when it appeared to be taking place late at night in Brighton and I do know of at least one murder currently being investigated which is was committed by someone who was stalking the victim.
Susan Nye was at one time Diary Secretary to Gordon Brown and when he lost the election in 2010 he nominated her to the House of Lords. On 24th November she asked the question: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are plans to include serial stalkers and domestic violence offenders on the Violent and Sex Offenders Register so that they are identified, risk assessed and managed like sex offenders.
The response came from Susan Williams who is Minister of State at the Home Office, a role to which she was appointed on 17 July 2016 after Theresa May became Prime Minister. Prior to her elevation to the Lords she was a Councillor in Manchester. Her response was “My Lords, we are committed to tackling stalking and domestic violence. That is why we introduced a new domestic abuse offence last year and two stalking offences in 2012. Convicted perpetrators of these crimes are already recorded on systems such as the police national computer to support the police in identifying, risk assessing and monitoring offenders.”
Susan Nye followed this up with a second question, which I think is all any Peer is allowed to do: “I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. A register, as recommended by Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy Service, would have helped Zoe Dronfield, who was the 13th victim of a serial stalker, as well as many others. Can the Minister say whether the Government have any plans to develop one-to-one programmes for serial stalkers, either in custody or in the community, because the onus needs to be on the perpetrators to change rather than asking victims to change their behaviour to protect themselves and their children?”
The response from Susan Williams was pretty pitiful and entirely ignored this second question “My Lords, the Government have put a significant amount of effort into introducing these stalking offences. Certainly the victims need ongoing support, and that is one of the things that the Government provide.”
Some of the questions that followed are worth reading if you have the time to do so, by following the link above.
On Wednesday of this week as all of the Lords were packing up for the Christmas break Susan Nye decided to have another go at getting a proper response from the Government. This time the cracks showed up much more clearly: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 24 November how frequently individuals convicted of stalking are assessed and monitored by the police. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of one-to-one programmes for serial stalkers.”
Susan Williams responded as follows, the bold type is my emphasis and shows how the Government is not really that concerned about this crime which has led to a number of murders as well as causing untold misery for many many people and their families: “Stalking is an horrific crime which can have a devastating impact on victims and this Government is determined to tackle it. The monitoring and assessment of individuals convicted of stalking is an operational matter for Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners. Data is not held centrally. To support effective assessment and monitoring by the police, details of those convicted of stalking is held on the Police National Computer and, where appropriate, on the Violent and Sexual Offenders Register. The Government’s Violence against Women and Girls Strategy published in March 2016 makes clear that a sustainable approach to preventing abuse is dependent on changing the attitude and behaviour of perpetrators. Through the Police Innovation Fund the Government is supporting, promoting and evaluating innovative models to tackle perpetrators’ behaviour and will continue to do so. On 7 December the Government announced that it will introduce a Stalking Protection Order to help protect victims at the earliest possible opportunity and deter perpetrators. The new order will be available to the police on application to the courts and will allow the imposition of both restrictions and other measures such as a requirement to attend a treatment programme. The College of Policing’s What Works Centre for Crime Reduction is working to build the evidence base for effective intervention with perpetrators.”
If this Government was serious in their desire to deal with stalking as a Crime, they would be collecting data centrally and inviting people like Susan Nye to hold them to account for how it is being used. It is completely inadequate for the data capture and monitoring to be down to individual Police Forces. Not because there is necessarily a lack of priority at a local level, but because stalking like a number of other crimes is widely understood to not be limited to a fixed geography and limited to a Police force area. It is vital that this issue is treated much more seriously than simply the creation of new offences which Governments love to do because it makes them look like they are paying attention but actually rarely helps anyone.