NEW FIGURES have revealed that police in Lancashire have barely used legal powers to protect stalking victims despite over 2,000 incidents occurring last year.
The statistics show that while a total of 2,041 stalking incidents were reported in Lancashire in the nine months to December 2020, the police only applied for six stalking prevention orders, of which five were granted.
In response, victims rights campaigner John Clough MBE from Pendle, whose daughter Jane was murdered by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass while he was on bail in 2010, has said more must be done.
He said: “It sounds to me like some police forces and police officers aren’t aware of what the legislation is and how they can apply it.”
He added: “I think it is a case of a need for more training and awareness for police officers.
“Stalking is a problem that is not going to go away unless we use the tools that are available.”
Mr Clough has also campaigned for a stalkers register to be included in the government’s recent domestic abuse law and for changes to the Bail Act to protect victims.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which works to support victims of stalking, defines the activity as “a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.”
Such behaviour can include making unwanted communication, consistently sending gifts, damaging property, physical or sexual assault.
Stalking Protection Orders were introduced in January 2020 and are designed to make it easier to tackle stalkers, with a lower burden of proof required than for a criminal conviction.
Lancashire’s total of 2,041 stalking incidents represents a marked increase on the previous year’s total of 1,426, while incidents have increased every year since 2015.
A total of 110 people were charged for stalking in the county in the 2019-20 period, a charge rate of just 7.71 per cent, while so far this year 102 people have been charged, a rate of five per cent.
Police forces across England have recorded similarly low take-ups of the orders with figures obtained by the BBC Shared Data Unit showing that just 249 orders have been granted to forces across England, while four forces in England and Wales failed to apply for a single order since January 2020.
Refuge spokesperson Lisa King said: “That is testament to the policing response being an absolute postcode lottery, and that’s really disappointing to see.
“This should be a wake-up call for police forces across the country to get the training in place, and then start to message also that these orders are there, that women and men can use, so that they are taken up and protection is given.”
In response, a Lancashire Police spokesperson said: “We want to reassure people who are being stalked that we remain dedicated to safeguarding you and bringing offenders to justice.
“If you are being stalked, we actively encourage you to contact us and raise your concerns immediately.”