Advanced Search

CPS introduces "ground-breaking" legal guidance on stalking

23/09/2010

For the first time victims of stalking have had their ordeal recognised in official government guidance. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today published revised guidance on stalking and harassment. It emphasises the existence and widespread nature of 'stalking' as a particular category of harassment and it identifies the various ways in which stalking occurs.

Nazir Afzal, CPS Community Liaison Director and lead on stalking and harassment crimes, said:

"Stalking is pernicious and can affect anyone regardless of their walk of life. It has a devastating impact on the lives of those who become victims.

"The Stalking and Harassment Guidance gives prosecutors a better understanding of what stalking is. It provides them with a framework to build stronger cases and to apply for more effective restraining orders.  Prosecutors must now look at the bigger picture when dealing with these cases because we know that treating incidents of stalking as isolated belies the full impact on the victim and the criminal behaviour of the perpetrator.

"What we now understand more fully is that victims of stalking, just like victims of domestic violence, continue to live in fear of their stalkers despite the fact that they may have been prosecuted and imprisoned or subject to other sanctions."

Alexis Bowater, Chief Executive for the Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS), said:

"As the UK charity that represents stalking victims and their families, the Network for Surviving Stalking welcomes the new CPS guidelines on stalking and their swift and comprehensive response to a real need. We hope the inclusion of cyber-stalking for the first time will encourage everyone involved to take this crime more seriously.

"This new guidance will go a long way to improving the lives of victims and to making sure that perpetrators are treated appropriately by the courts. Recognising in particular new forms of stalking such as cyber-stalking is ground-breaking."

Prosecutors will now be better equipped to assess the safety and needs of each victim on an individual basis. They should ensure that a full risk assessment has been recently conducted by the police or other criminal justice agencies. The CPS will work more closely with these agencies to apply for stronger restraining orders to help reduce the risks to victims and to prevent further offences.

Mr Afzal, who has met a number of victims of stalking and consulted with victims' charities, continued:

"We have been working very closely with stalking charities, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office to understand how we can improve our service to victims. Early risk identification will ensure that police and prosecutors have the crucial information to enable them to build stronger cases.

"We know that we should have done better at this in the past. We need those affected by this crime to know that we have listened carefully to concerns raised by victims and stalking support groups, and we recognise how serious and how distressing this behaviour can be. Our Stalking and Harassment Guidance will go some way to reassuring victims that the CPS will prosecute these cases robustly and with a greater understanding of the invidiousness of this crime.

ACPO lead for stalking and harassment ACC Garry Shewan said: "The introduction of this guidance is a positive step forward in the prosecution of those responsible for stalking.

"Not only will it help bring offenders to justice, but it will also help to recognise the importance of quality support and communication with the victims whose lives are so negatively impacted by this terrible crime.

"Through our work with the CPS we have highlighted the need for the police to work closely with other agencies to ensure that the best evidence is gathered and presented to the court, as well as emphasising the importance of providing support to victims through access to support groups."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. Read the Stalking and Harassment guidance on the CPS website.
  2. Changes introduced in the guidance include: Extending the availability of restraining orders to all cases on both conviction and, in more limited circumstances, acquittal. Prosecutors can apply for a restraining order when there is an acquittal under section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, which came into force in 2009.
  3. In cases of stalking and harassment the police will conduct early risk identification.
  4. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  5. Media who would like to interview people who have been affected by stalking and cyber stalking can contact the Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS) on 07970 792986.
  6. NSS is launching a questionnaire tomorrow on cyber stalking in collaboration with the University of Bedfordshire. Find more information about stalking at www.nss.org.uk  
  7. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  8. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 12 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Group, Counter-Terrorism, Organised Crime and Special Crime. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  9. The CPS employs around 8,316 people and prosecuted 982,731 cases with a conviction rate of 86.8% in the magistrates' courts and 80.7% in the Crown Court in 2009-20010. Further information can be found on the CPS website
  10. 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