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The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

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New stalking legislation helps to bring thousands more prosecutions as CPS and ACPO launch protocol to improve service to stalking victims

11/09/2014

As stalking-related prosecutions rise, prosecutors and police are being reminded to focus on the devastating impact these crimes have on victims. After the first full year of operation, new stalking legislation has seen 743 cases brought to court - cases which may not have been charged under previous law.

Prosecutions for all stalking and harassment offences, using both new and older legislation, have increased by more than 20 per cent in 2013-14 (from 8,648 in 2012-13 to 10,535 last year). Breaches of restraining and non-molestation orders, the vast majority of which relate to domestic violence cases and can involve stalking-related behaviours, have also seen a 14.6 per cent rise in prosecutions brought to court in 2013-14 (from 15,838 to 18,149).

In order to maintain this upward trend the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have today [Thursday 11th September] launched a new protocol to ensure consistency of approach when tackling all forms of stalking.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: "It is encouraging to see more offenders being brought to justice but police and prosecutors need to do more still to protect the victims of this pernicious crime.

"Stalking and harassment is about the control of others and its impact can be devastating. Stalking creates an environment of continual fear with many victims feeling not only in physical danger but also suffering psychological distress as a result.

"I am pleased that prosecutors are making effective use of new stalking laws in order to protect victims and put their stalkers before the courts where previously, in some cases, we were unable to do so. These new offences enable us to bring people to court potentially before they risk going on to commit more serious crimes. The rise in prosecutions sends a message to both victims and criminals about how seriously we are taking these types of offences."

Legislation which came into force in November 2012 allows prosecutors to bring charges where an offender's behaviour falls short of fear of violence, but where a victim is caused serious alarm or distress affecting their lifestyle.

National Policing Lead for Stalking and Harassment, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: "More people than ever are being prosecuted and convicted for stalking but we know that there are still many more stalkers getting away with it and victims at risk who are suffering immensely.

"We are determined to increase the number of stalkers brought to justice and ensure that measures are put in place to protect victims even if a conviction isn't possible; if police and prosecutors follow this protocol we can achieve this aim. I will be working with chief officers across the country to ensure that this protocol is shared and used by officers on the ground."

The new Protocol on the Appropriate Handling of Stalking Offences, which has been jointly drafted and agreed by the CPS and ACPO, focuses strongly on the needs of stalking victims.

The new protocol reminds police and prosecutors to:

  • ensure that in every case the victim has the opportunity to provide a Victim Personal Statement to court and is able to read this out personally should they wish;
  • fully investigate the reasons behind any victim withdrawing a complaint, ensuring it is not the result of pressure from others;
  • ensure that victims are consulted on issues such as bail and restraining orders.

The protocol also instructs prosecutors to apply, where possible, for restraining orders on both conviction and acquittal in order to protect the ongoing safety and security of victims. Restraining orders on acquittal can be an added protection for victims in situations where the likelihood of abuse may be 'beyond the balance of probabilities', a lower standard of proof than that usually required in criminal convictions of 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Data from the Ministry of Justice shows that 18,656 restraining orders were issued on conviction in 2013 (compared with 18,611 in 2012); and 1,667 restraining orders were secured after acquittal compared with 1,448 in 2012.

Alison Saunders added: "Stalking and harassment are particularly cowardly crimes which threaten people at home, at work and when socialising, places where people should feel safe. Our focus in this area of offending has helped increase the prosecutions we bring, and the new protocol will also help ensure that victims are guided through what can be a difficult and stressful time and that their views throughout the process are heard and understood. I hope this offers some reassurance to victims and a warning to potential criminals."

Rachel Griffin, Director of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the charity that runs the National Stalking Helpline said: "We welcome the guidance released today focused on ensuring there is a consistent approach to how victims of stalking are treated across England and Wales. We often hear from victims of stalking through the National Stalking Helpline who need more and better support through both the investigation and trial process, so we hope that the clearer guidance released today will aid in ensuring these victims get the help they deserve.

"Stalking is a highly complex crime that has devastating impacts on a victim and because of this we are pleased that the very real issue of online stalking has been addressed in the protocols. The next steps have to be to ensure that all officers are trained to ensure that the guidance in the protocols become a reality for every victim of stalking."

Background:
  • In 2013-14, 743 prosecutions were brought under the new stalking offences created by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and inserted into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Of those, 529 involved fear/alarm/distress and 214 involved fear of violence/serious alarm or distress. 2013/14 is the first full year of data since the new laws were introduced in November 2012.
  • Between November 2012 to March 2013, 91 prosecutions were brought under the new legislation. (The new legislation came into force in Nov 2012).

These statistics can be found in full in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Violence Againt Women and Girls reports published on the CPS website here: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/equality/vaw/index.html.

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  3. At 31 March 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:  www.cps.gov.uk.
  4. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.