Victims' advocate visits Sussex to hear how police are tackling stalking and fraud

Progress in cracking down on stalking was among the topics on the agenda when the Victims' Commissioner visited Sussex on Thursday.

PCC Katy Bourne (left) with Victims' Commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove. Pictures: Sussex PCC
PCC Katy Bourne (left) with Victims' Commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove. Pictures: Sussex PCC

Tackling stalking has been a priority for Sussex police in the wake of the tragic murder of Shana Grice in August 2016.

Baroness Helen Newlove has been visiting police forces across the country to see how victims of crime are supported, and last week met with Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

The baroness, whose role as Victims’ Commissioner is to promote the interests of victims and witnesses, said the visit was ‘very positive’.

PCC Katy Bourne with Baroness Newlove SUS-180624-161951001

Mrs Bourne said: “One of the priorities on the police and crime plan is helping victims recover from crime and from abuse.

“We focussed on that today – victims of stalking and harassment and cyber crime.

“We also talked about our elderly victims of fraud and exploitation.”

Crimes against the elderly has been a big focus for Sussex Police, with their Operation Signature aiming to identify, protect and support vulnerable victims of fraud in our county.

Sussex Police have been focussing on stalking and harassment in recent years

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Mrs Bourne spoke about the two specialist caseworkers her office funds to work with fraud victims in Sussex.

She added: “Often victims do not always want to speak to the police in the first instance.

“The caseworkers work with them and they have done lots of face-to-face interviews.”

She also spoke about Sussex’s banking protocol, where bank staff alert police of suspicious transactions involving elderly or vulnerable residents.

In 12 months the initiative has prevented financial losses of £1.35million and led to 19 arrests.

Baroness Newlove also asked about how Sussex Police have changed their approach to stalking after Portslade teenager Shana Grice was murdered by stalker ex-boyfriend Michael Lane.

In March last year Mrs Bourne said Sussex Police had an ‘awful lot to learn’ about dealing with victims of stalking and harassment.

But she said on Thursday: “Sussex Police have really taken this on board.

“And not just Sussex Police, Veritas have also provided training on stalking. They have worked with child protective services, probation, youth offending teams.

“They are helping to train them to understand that stalking is a very particular, difficult crime and we have to look at the pattern of behaviour.”

Speaking about the visit, Mrs Bourne said: “I was delighted to welcome Baroness Newlove and hear the positive feedback she gave to our victim service providers who prepared presentations on all the great work they are doing across the county. 
“It will be interesting to hear her independent perspective following the visit, on where our services might improve and how we compare with other areas.”

Baroness Newlove said: “From what I have heard this morning I have to say it is very positive.

“They have shown very good statistics but more importantly they have [learned] from what people are saying.

“It is good to meet victims as well because they give you the true picture.”

Baroness Newlove said stalking is a ‘horrendous crime’. Asked about Sussex Police’s efforts to tackle stalking since Shana’s murder, she said: “I want to look at what they do in the future.

“We have to have a first port of call that gives [victims] a support network.

“They can’t just have a review and then leave it on the shelf.”

Baroness Newlove is expected to publish her findings following the visit in due course.