Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Monday, 13 November 2017

Leading Stalking Expert Has Let Down Victims, Adviser Claims

Leading Stalking Expert Has Let Down Victims, Adviser Claims

The Debrief: The laws are in place, there's protection out there, but the stats on stalking convictions are abysmal...

The National Police Chief’s Council lead on stalking is letting stalking victims down, says an ex-Scotland Yard detective.

Gary Shewan, the Assistant Police Chief Constable, is under fire from former detective inspector Hamish Brown, who is himself so influential on stalking he’s written guidance for investigators that’s been published by the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police. As reported in The Times, Mr Brown wrote a letter of complaint to both his local MP and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, saying that there has been ‘a lack of action on Mr Shewan’s part in connection with stalking and harassment, which, in my view, amounts to gross misconduct.’

Mr Brown also alleged there had been a ‘lack of co-ordination, leadership and coupled with what appears to be an absence of drive and commitment, have all contributed to an appalling police response to victims of stalking and harassment.’

He said that there have been failures of police to use search warrants and ‘stalking protection orders’.

These protection orders were introduced in 2016 with the aim of giving stalking victims - up to one in five women and one in ten men in their lifetimes - early protection. Before that, there were orders to protect victims of domestic violence, those who had previously had contact with a stalker, but not much to make an early intervention when a stalker wasn’t very well known to the victim.

The requirements of the order will vary from case to case, but it would normally exist of someone suspected of stalking someone they’ve not had a relationship (ex-partners are protected under domestic violence laws) being banned from contact with the victim, both IRL and URL. If the stalker contravenes this rule, they can be charged with a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

The stats are damning - research from 2015 shows only 1% of cases resulted in a prosecution, and the number of cases reaching court dropped by 10% last year according to the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS). In July of this year, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary looked into 112 cases of stalking, finding that none of them had been ‘dealt with well.’

Mr Shewan has been requested by Mr Brown to step down from his role in the handling of a case in which Reverend Graham Sawyer was stalked by a woman who worshipped at his church in Briercliffe, Lancashire.

It took over a year for police to give the woman a harassment warning, and though that put a stop to it, Reverend Sawyer had already lost a third of his congregation, as they had believed lies the woman had spread about him. Mr. Shewan ordered a review into why his team took so long to process the reverend’s complaints and reports, but Rev Sawyer was never interviewed for it. Mr Shewan told The Times via a spokesman that he’s had nothing to do with the case since the review.

At a time when stalkers have even more ways than ever of contacting their victims - many of these traceable - and police have more powers to combat stalking, it’s pretty shocking that stalkers are still getting away with it. We need officers to have the resources and ability to enact the powers they have, and to believe people when they come forward about a crime that, in its very essence, is about confusing and terrorising the victim.

You might also be interested in:

The Reality Of Having An Online Stalker

Social Media Encourages And Enables Stalking, It's Time To Talk About It

New Laws Mean Earlier Protection For Victims Of Stranger Stalking

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