National Stalking Awareness week: Tackling stalking and harassment in the East Midlands
Stalking is a debilitating offence, which can have a detrimental effect on victims’ daily lives. Because of that, CPS East Midlands treats stalking cases with the utmost priority.
Allegations of stalking are handled by experienced prosecutors, often from the area’s specialist domestic abuse team. In the East Midlands, the District Crown Prosecutor from our domestic abuse team is also our lead for stalking. Laura Martin works with the prosecutors from her team and with criminal justice partners from Wellingborough to Chesterfield to help improve the service we give to victims of these crimes.
Laura says: “The most important thing, our number one priority is to protect and safeguard the victim. Stalking offences are invasive and debilitating and it is therefore vital that we use everything available to us to help break the cycle of the behaviour and support victims.
“As prosecutors, we have different tools, in our toolbox, to protect victims. The important thing is to see the bigger picture and consider all of the circumstances and then pick the most effective option for these circumstances.”
Options available to prosecutors, police and the courts include bail conditions if the CPS can charge a case quickly. With more complex offending that needs further investigation, prosecutors will advise the police about reasonable lines of enquiry and the police can apply for civil orders through the court, including Stalking Prevention Orders and Domestic Violence Prevention Orders.
Laura explains further that a prosecutor’s first step will be to examine the evidence to assess the case for stalking.
“Our first question will be whether the evidence in front of us amounts to stalking, or if there are further lines of enquiry we could recommend that would enable us to build a case of stalking. If the answer is that the evidence points more to harassment or other offences, the prosecutor will outline why that is.
“This approach enables the CPS to be satisfied that we have left no stone unturned in these cases and that we have opened up all possible legal angles to address and eradicate the behaviour.”
As stalking lead, Laura’s main focus is on working with criminal justice partners to share knowledge and expertise from all the different facets of these cases: “We all have a very different job to do in the lifetime of these cases, so the importance of talking to each other and, above all, listening cannot be overestimated.”
In the last year, Laura has been involved in training and awareness raising for police officers and civilian staff, as well as magistrates in the East Midlands. She is also part of a project based in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire that aims to revolutionise the way information is shared between agencies including independent domestic violence advisors and third sector service providers.