Today (Thursday 24th April) is National Stalking Awareness Day – and Hampshire Constabulary is reminding people who face stalking or harassment that help and support is available to them.
In support of this year’s theme “Working Without Fear”; the force is publishing new information on social media about workplace stalking, providing details to employers about how they can support employees who disclose stalking behaviour and raising the profile of the Hampshire Stalking Clinic.
Stalking is a unique crime which can devastate the lives of those affected by it. It is characterised by fixation on behalf of the offender and can leave the objects of their obsession feeling powerless to stop it. Stalking can often be difficult to identify as it may on first appearance seem like a number of innocent or innocuous events, however when taken together the combined effect can be devastating.
Because stalking often involves an offender who is obsessed or fixated with the victim, traditional prevention methods can often prove ineffective. Offenders will often be arrested, convicted and sentenced only to continue their behaviour on release. Many offenders also suffer from underlying mental health problems.
As a result, the Hampshire Stalking Clinic was set up by Detective Chief Inspector Linda Dawson, whose pioneering work to help victims of stalking and harassment was recognised with an MBE earlier this year. The clinic brings together professionals from the probation service, police, mental health agencies and victim support services to look at all available options and fully assess the risks involved.
The clinic protects some incredibly vulnerable victims and manages the significant risks posed by offenders. A full-time independent stalking advocate has also been appointed, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioners Office and is based at Aurora New Dawn in Havant, but covers the whole of the force area.
DCI, Linda Dawson, MBE said: “Stalking often goes unreported with victims suffering in silence and feeling that their fears and concerns won’t be taken seriously. National Stalking Awareness Day aims to help those affected by stalking realise that they are not alone, that there is support available and that police and other agencies take stalking seriously.”
“The Clinic has been set up to assist police and probation officers fully understand the stalking profile of the suspect and in so doing ensure that a bespoke safeguarding plan is put in place to protect the victim. The input by mental health professionals and work of the victim advocate are essential in this process and help think laterally about how to break the cycle of stalking. Referrals are received from any of the agencies who require extra assistance in dealing with particularly difficult or complex cases.”
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was originally introduced in order to tackle stalking behaviour. However, it was found to be generally used to tackle low-level harassment, such as neighbour disputes.
As a result, two additional offences were introduced under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. S2A and S4A of the Protection from Harassment Act came into force in November 2012 and specifically legislate against stalking.
Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes, said: “The invasion into someone’s privacy by another through stalking or harassment can have a devastating lasting effect on victims in all aspects of their lives. We must provide the right level of protection and support for victims across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
“Everyone has the right to ‘work without fear’ and employers have a shared responsibility for looking after the welfare of those that work for them. I support the focus of this year’s National Stalking Awareness Day and the work of the force and partners in highlighting this crime and the help available to employers across the two counties.”
Detective Inspector Tina Lowe said: “The experience of being stalked can destroy the lives of victims. It is vitally important that we identify stalking cases at the earliest opportunity, assess the risk to victims to put robust safeguarding in place and use the legislation to bring offenders to justice.”
Hampshire Constabulary will be supporting the National Stalking Helpline, the Network for Surviving Stalking, the Protection Against Stalking and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, for this year’s National Stalking Awareness Day.