Some 30 stalkers, who have been issued separately with a Stalking Protection Order, will now receive specialist intervention to address and stop their fixated behaviours, as part of a scheme trialling in Sussex. Stalkers will get psychological therapy for them to address and modify their own behaviour. It brings together Sussex Police, rehabilitation and criminal justice service Seetec Justice and a local stalking advocacy service Veritas Justice.
Police report stalking reports are increasing. In Sussex in 2020, police recorded 2661 crimes involving stalking. Likewise Veritas Justice says it has seen steady increases in referrals since they began supporting victims in 2016.
Police point to national research that a majority, 55pc of stalking perpetrators go on to re-offend in some way, as complex psychological issues associated with stalking often fail to be addressed within the criminal justice system. Hence, say the project organisers, alongside enforcement, a need to provide support for perpetrators to address their offending behaviour and reduce the likelihood of harming again.
In November, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne was awarded £98,000 from the Home Office, for stalking intervention and evaluation, as part of a package of interventions on domestic abuse. Each person given an SPO will be considered as a potential subject for this intervention.
Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) were introduced nationally in January 2020, and Sussex Police has secured 29 SPOs in the first 12 months, with a further seven awaiting court hearings. The Seetec Justice Compulsive and Obsessive Behaviour Intervention (COBI) will be used, based on tested and proven psychological therapy. This means that participants will take part in 12 one-to-one sessions where their case will be dissected and a focus placed on maintaining non-offending behaviour.
The goal is for the service-user to learn pro-social, inter-personal skills and improve their ability to manage their behaviour during periods of emotional crisis. The skills to learn: mindfulness; distress tolerance; emotion regulation; and inter-personal effectiveness.
Carl Hall, the Deputy Director of Community Development at Seetec Justice, said: “There is no place in our society for stalking – it is a terrifying crime that leaves victims traumatised. Seetec is determined to work with local partners to address how certain behaviours lead to an individual choosing to stalk in the first place. The purpose of this scheme is to enhance the effectiveness of the court-ordered Stalking Protection Orders issued to offenders in Sussex. The intervention we are deploying highlights that Sussex is at the forefront of using innovative approaches to tackle some of the most complex issues faced in the criminal justice system. Highly skilled staff will tackle the causes of the problem, addressing the perpetrator’s obsessive and compulsive behaviours to prevent more people from becoming a victim of this type of crime in the future.”
Meanwhile the personal safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust is asking online dating platforms to better protect their users, especially in terms of reporting procedures, focusing on four principal areas: safety guidelines, robust and transparent reporting, safeguarding and ongoing partnerships. Suky Bhaker, CEO of the Trust, says: “Following the pandemic, there has been a rise in online dating. Online dating should be fun and safe; however, we know there have been increasing reports of online abuse. With this comes the urgent need to safeguard users of online dating platforms. It is vital that platforms have robust and transparent reporting procedures to protect their users.”
And meanwhile the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) has launched a report, ‘Reducing Reoffending In Focus’, on how Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are seeking to end what they call ‘the revolving door of crime’, such as treatment for offenders with mental health problems or addictions.