Eight years after Blackpool Victoria Hospital nurse – and mum-of-one – Jane Clough died at the hands of her abusive ex-partner, stalking victims are still being left down, her heartbroken by determined mother Penny told STEF HALL
The parents of a nurse murdered by her abuser say not enough is being done to support victims of stalking once they have taken the brave step to come forward.
Penny Clough, mum of Jane Clough who was stabbed to death in the car park of Blackpool Victoria Hospital in 2009, spoke as figures show more than five stalking and harassment cases were reported every day in Blackpool over the last 12 months.
Office for National Statistics data shows that in Blackpool, 2,063 cases of stalking, harassment or malicious communications were reported between July 2017-June 2018.
Of the three crimes 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.
There are several plans in the pipeline to tackle stalkers, including a Stalking Protection Bill, which will introduce new civil Stalking Protection Orders which will see perpetrators jailed up to five years if they breach their order.
Penny agrees introducing these measures is a positive step, but says unless the justice system uses the powers properly it “makes a mockery” of the system.
The family has also been campaigning for the introduction of a ‘stalker’s register’ which, like the Sex Offender’s Register, could see stalkers monitored, and a related petition has gained more than 150,000 signatures.
Penny says: “We are making great progress with the plans for a stalking register, which will hopefully go through parliament. A lot of people now realise just what a dangerous behaviour it is.
“But even if we succeed the work isn’t over - we’ve got to try to protect the public more.
“These figures highlight that a lot of people are going through it. It’s so frustrating that we are not keeping victims safe enough after more and more people have had the courage to come forward.
“It’s costing victims their quality of life and that is wrong.”
Anti-domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid said that too often abuse which doesn’t leave bruises “is not taken seriously enough”.
Katie Ghose, the charity’s chief executive, explained: “Abusers will often stop at nothing to make sure that their victim does not escape their control.
“From our work with survivors, we know that many women experience stalking as part of an ongoing pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour after leaving an abusive partner.
“These acts are often not seen as being as harmful as physical abuse when isolated yet together they create a life filled with threats, a life lived in fear.”
Ms Ghose said she was pleased there has been police progress regarding stalking, with improvements in identification and recording of the crime. In Blackpool reported stalking and harassment offences have tripled since 2015-16. Across England and Wales there was an 86 per cent increase over that time, though this could be down to better crime recording by officers.
Det Supt Ian Whitehead, head of public protection at Lancashire Police, said: “Lancashire Constabulary treats stalking and harassment extremely seriously which is why we continue to train our staff to better recognise stalking crimes, as well as the associated risks, and the impact on victims. Improved awareness and recording of these offences is an essential element in ensuring that we are understanding these risks and responding to the needs of victims, and we welcome the focus nationally on improving the recording of these crimes.
“Stalking can have devastating consequences for victims and can often escalate to other serious offences. We are committed to tackling this issue and will offer as much support as possible to anybody affected.”
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity which campaigns to reduce the risk of violence and aggression, called on the ONS to publish separate data for stalking and harassment.
Victoria Charleston, the charity’s policy and development manager, said: “Stalking and harassment are distinct and combining them in this way continues to blur the lines between these two crimes,”