Call for action following shock Blackpool stalking figures

Blackpool has seen a rise in the number of stalking complaints
Blackpool has seen a rise in the number of stalking complaints
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Campaigners have called for action after figures showed there were more than seven stalking and harassment cases reported every day in Blackpool last year.

Office for National Statistics data shows that in Blackpool, 2,597 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported between October 2017 and September 2018.

Tina Hibbard from The Fylde Coast Womens Aid  support group

Tina Hibbard from The Fylde Coast Womens Aid support group

Of the three crimes included in the figures stalking is the most serious, and can include following someone, repeatedly going uninvited to their home and monitoring their use of phones and computers.

Over the last five years, the number of recorded stalking and harassment cases has increased 11-fold in Blackpool.

The Home Office said police recording has improved and victims are feeling more empowered to come forward.

However, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, the police watchdog, recently published a report stating that stalking and harassment are not being investigated by police consistently or effectively.

It says there is no single definition of the crime, which means “police forces are not consistently identifying stalking and are not protecting victims as a result”.

HMICFRS adds that forces are not using powers under stalking laws to search perpetrators’ homes so investigations are “not as thorough as they could be”.

The watchdog has given the National Police Chiefs’ Council six months to adopt a series of recommendations.

Lancashire Constabulary only brought charges in five per cent of the stalking and harassment cases they investigated.

Overall, the force recorded 16,000 cases over the 12-month period. Of those, 453 were stalking offences.

Tina Hibbard, service manager at the Fylde Coast Women’s Aid which is a member of the National Stalking Consortium, said police forces need to invest in domestic abuse and stalking training.

She said: “Stalking is a devastating crime which can often leads to horrendous offences, including physical assault, sexual violence, and murder, in addition to causing severe psychological trauma. It is imperative that the criminal justice system on the whole commits to better its understanding of stalking as a criminal offence.”

She said anyone in need of support could contact FCWA on its dedicated helpline number 01253 596699.