Improved training important to tackle stalking and harassment

04 July 2017

Improved training and a consistent approach is needed to ensure that officers can deal with cases of stalking and harassment in the most appropriate ways, says the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

In the first ever inspection of harassment and stalking cases, a joint report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), found that victims are frequently being let down by under-recording, inconsistent services and a lack of understanding by the criminal justice system.

Karen Stephens, lead on public protection for PFEW, said: “We accept that improvements must be made. Whilst there is no easy fix or overnight solution there is much more that can be done to improve the training afforded to officers for what is a complex area of work.

“Most importantly, officers must be afforded the time to complete this training so that they can feel confident in dealing with cases and victims in the best way possible. As it stands they are pulled from pillar to post across many different areas of work due to existing demand.”

HMIC and HMCPSI reviewed a total of 112 cases across six police forces and six Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) areas. Recommendations have been made to the Home Office, College of Policing, National Police Chiefs’ Council, Crown Prosecution Service and police forces in England and Wales.

The recommendations include carrying out a review of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, making clear the definitions of offences, conducting risk assessments for victims and the extension of prevention orders to help victims.

Mrs Stephens added: “There are means to help tackle these offences, but again officers need the time to improve their understanding of when and where these are best used."

Inspectors found that incidents of harassment and stalking are often dealt with in isolation by both police and prosecutors.  As a result, victims are being given varying advice often leading to the severity of the overall situation being overlooked.

“It’s important that police, the CPS and wider partners work in a joined up way that identifies the very real nature of the situation and allows the right steps to be taken to help overcome these.”