South Yorkshire Police are urging people to come forward during National Stalking Awareness Week

Written by Samantha Hawkins

This week is National Stalking Awareness week, which is dedicated to raising awareness of stalking and the effect it has.

South Yorkshire Police are encouraging people to report any incidents of stalking or harassment,

Superintendent Cherie Buttle, the force lead for stalking, said: “Stalking is a very serious offence, which can have a devastating impact on its victims- both physically and psychologically. As a force, we are committed to tackling this type of crime wherever we find it. There are many ways we can put a stop to this behaviour, including prison sentences, restraining orders and other penalties.”

Stalking is a pattern of fixated, unwanted and repetitive behaviour that causes the victim to fear for their safety. This includes a variety of behaviour such as unwanted contact in person, over the phone, online or on social media.

It can involve threats, criminal damage, following or spying on someone.

Currently, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the maximum prison sentence for stalking involving fear of violence or serious distress is 10 years in custody.

Stalking involving fear of violence or distress is a serious offence. It involves multiple occasions that cause a victim to fear violence against them or if there has been a substantial effect on their daily lives.

South Yorkshire Police are working closely with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns  to raise greater awareness of personal safety and stalking issues. Suzy Lamplugh Trust is an expert in lone-working and personal safety training, stalking training, as well as consultancy, campaigning, and support services.

Violet Alvarez, from the Policy and Campaigns Team at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said there is a need for a better response to victims from those within the criminal justice system.

“Independent Stalking Advocates are trained specialists who provide victims with expert advice and support during a period of crisis, often when the stalker’s behaviour is escalating and the response from the criminal justice system or other agencies fails to address it.

“Despite Stalking Advocates providing an essential service to victims, the majority of respondents who experienced stalking in the UK were not supported by an advocate of any kind. Dedicated stalking support services have grown in recent years, but unfortunately, the demand for stalking advocates still far exceeds current capacity, with many victims left to navigate this traumatic and dangerous crime on their own.”

As a result, the trust are calling for £10 million a year in funding to be ring-fenced for stalking victims specifically.

Violet Alvarez said that the trust found that victims who receive support from stalking advocates had a higher rate of reporting to the police and were more successful when pursuing legal action against their stalkers than the national rates.

“This is compared with published rates for England and Wales where only one in 50 cases are reported, one in 435 stalkers are charged, one in 556 stalkers are prosecuted, and one in 1,000 stalkers are convicted. This demonstrates the vital need for more advocates to support victims.”

Supt Buttle said: “If you are suffering, or you think a loved one might be, please know that you are not alone. You do not have to put up with it. We are here to help and support you.

“Please do not suffer in silence and please do not be ashamed. It is always the offender who is to blame.”
To report stalking or harassment call 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report online using South Yorkshire Police’s online reporting portal.

Additionally, you can contact The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

 

Written by Samantha Hawkins

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