Stalking analysis reveals domestic abuse link
Stalking is increasingly being recognised as a form of domestic abuse within the criminal justice system, with CPS analysis finding the majority of offences are committed by ex-partners.
A record 2,288 charges were brought in 2019-20 - more than double the number five years previously.
This is partly driven by better recognition among police and prosecutors of stalking as part of a wider pattern of domestic abuse.
CPS analysis of stalking prosecutions this year - the first exercise of its kind - found that most offences were committed by abusive ex-partners.
Of stalking cases sampled at random from across England and Wales, 84 per cent involved complaints against ex-partners and three-quarters reported domestic abuse had previously occurred during the relationship.
The data is being released to mark the UN's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Joanna Coleman, CPS national lead for stalking prosecutions, said: “Stalking is an abhorrent offence which leaves victims traumatised, humiliated and often in genuine fear of their lives.
“I am very encouraged to see our work in this area reflected in a record number of stalking prosecutions, however we recognise there is always more to be done.
“My message to stalking and domestic abuse victims is this - no matter the coronavirus restrictions in place, the CPS and criminal justice system is open for business and we will treat your case as high priority.”
Analysis of offending
The CPS analysed a random cross-section of 50 stalking prosecutions completed between April and June 2020 across all 14 of our regional offices.
In every case involving an ex-partner, victims were bombarded with unwanted and often threatening phone contact and were physically stalked at their home or place of work.
Social media was cited as a significant factor in 17 cases, with offenders usually creating multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts to get around being blocked by their victims.
Three cases involved the disclosing of private sexual images - so-called “revenge porn”, with one woman’s photos sent to her manager by an ex.
In two cases, trackers were put on the victims’ cars and one involved an attempted abduction.
In eight prosecutions, the victim and perpetrator had not been in a relationship. These involved friends, colleagues or strangers developing fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated attention towards victims.
Recent data from the National Stalking Helpline, run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust, found that 100 per cent of reports involved some form of digital stalking, with this pattern intensifying over the lockdown periods of this year. Victims describe themselves a "sitting ducks" with perpetrators having more time on their hands.
Ms Coleman added: “What we are seeing time and again in this sample of cases is very often abusive men refusing to accept their relationships are over and not allowing their exes to move on with their lives.
“This manifests in behaviour spanning obsessive and threatening messaging to - at the more extreme end of the spectrum - physical violence and placing trackers on their movements.
“This is abuse pure and simple and anyone engaging in this sort of behaviour faces a wide range of very serious criminal charges.”
'Don't suffer in silence'
Police are urging stalking victims "not to suffer in silence", with it taking an average of 100 incidents before they report the crime.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, stalking and harassment lead for the National Police Chiefs Council, said: “Nationally we have seen an increase in stalking offences since March and factors such as loss of employment, working from home or being furloughed has increased perpetrator’s time and capacity to target victims.
“I would always urge anyone who believes they may be subject of stalking to come forward at the earliest opportunity and report their concerns to police so we can work with them to protect them."
Suky Bhaker, chief executive of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: "The impact of stalking is devastating and can infiltrate every aspect of a victim's life, with 78% of victims reporting symptoms consistent with PTSD according to a recent pilot study. It is important that victims report this crime and seek specialist support."
Case study 1
Sarah*, 18, broke up with a man she met online last summer after he became increasingly controlling during their brief relationship.
She cut off all contact with him after leaving for her first year at university and blocked his number and social media.
However, he used at least ten different mobile numbers and five social media accounts to contact her when she continually ignored his attempts to reconcile.
The perpetrator was eventually arrested and charged with stalking after repeatedly turning up at her halls of residence without invitation.
Case study 2
Mark* was jailed for 38 months after carrying out a terrifying campaign of abuse against his ex-girlfriend Katie*.
He refused to accept the relationship was over even after moving out and continued to let himself into the previously shared address.
Over the course of his stalking campaign, Mark struck and sexually assaulted Katie and also sent a private sexual image of her to a friend. He was jailed in June.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of victims
- The National Stalking Helpline, run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust, can be contacted free on 0800 802 0300 or via the online tool at suzylamplugh.org
Notes to editors
- Between April 2019 and March 2020, there were 1,257 prosecutions for stalking with fear/alarm/distress, 331 of stalking involving fear of violence, and 700 of stalking involving serious alarm and distress
- These figures are based on the number of cases charged and reaching a first court hearing. Official criminal justice outcome statistics are kept by the Ministry of Justice
- The CPS analysed 50 prosecutions at random across the three stalking offence categories and found 42 involved an ex-partner and 37 were related to previous domestic abuse within the relationship. All stalking cases linked to relationships are flagged as DA cases
- For more on how we prosecute stalking cases, see our legal guidance.