Katy Bourne, police and crime commissioner for Sussex, who was a stalking victim herself, has announced that she has secured £98,000 from the government to set up an intervention programme that works with perpetrators of stalking.
The initiative is the first of its kind for Sussex and will aim to improve responses to stalking across the criminal justice system and the health sector by working with private mental healthcare providers to develop a bespoke intervention for stalking perpetrators.
Police say stalking is a relentless crime that causes prolonged suffering for victims. On average, stalking cases last for up to two years and research shows that 94 per cent of domestic murders were preceded by stalking behaviour. This means, police say, it is vitally important to prevent these crimes from escalating in the first place.
Sussex Police say it has led the way in responding to stalking with a 300 per cent increase in victim referrals over the last five years and police officers already issuing 29 stalking protection orders since they were first introduced in January - this is the highest in the country.
A protection order can also make sure that a perpetrator attends a behavioural-change programme, but this is not currently possible because there are no appropriate intervention programmes in place. Katy Bourne’s proposed solution will, she says, fill this gap in the criminal justice response according to Sussex Police.
Ms Bourne said, “Stalkers display complex characteristics that are arguably unlike that of any other type of perpetrator. The fixated nature of a stalker demonstrates a deep-rooted, psychological obsession with their victim that we know a usual criminal justice sanction won’t always deter or stop.
“Previous research has found that over half of stalking perpetrators go on to reoffend, repeatedly breaching court orders put in place to protect their victims.
“I’m pleased that we have been successful in our bid for funding so that we can begin to identify and properly address the root causes of stalking behaviours and fill the current gaps in our response to these heinous crimes.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “Stalking is a distressing crime and we’re determined to stamp it out.
“In January I introduced stalking protection orders which protect victims and address the perpetrator’s behaviour at the earliest opportunity, and I’m encouraged to see Sussex Police using these powers.
“This additional funding will enable Sussex Police to continue leading the way in tackling stalking, and partners to go even further in fighting this disturbing crime.”
Over the last year, local Sussex stalking service, Veritas Justice, supported 1,085 victims. It has seen steady increases in referrals since it began supporting victims in 2016 and know first-hand the complex and challenging nature of these crimes.
Director Claudia Ortiz said, “This is very welcome news and a crucial part of the development of our response to stalking in Sussex. We hope that by addressing stalkers’ behaviour at the earliest possible opportunity it will mean that current victims of stalking will be safer and will also prevent future victims from being targeted in the first place.
“Most victims of stalking tell us that they just want the stalking to stop, so it is of paramount importance that we adopt a multiagency approach and improve our understanding of the complex psychological issues that drive and sustain stalking behaviour to provide interventions beyond the criminal justice outcomes to reduce reoffending and revictimisation.”
According to Sussex Police, the proposed intervention programme will aim to gain a better understanding of mental health problems associated with stalking. The countywide pilot intends to assess risk, gain understanding of psychological drivers, with an aim of finding a way to stop stalking behaviours altogether.