Harassment and stalking

In 2016/17, HMIC and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) carried out the first inspection into harassment and stalking.

The aim of the was inspection to assess the effectiveness of police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in dealing with cases involving harassment and stalking, and to examine the service received by victims.

Watch the short video below to find out more about the inspection.

Video transcript

HMI Wendy Williams:

At the forefront of our minds when we did this inspection, was ‘what is the experience of victims, what impact can this have on their lives’, and so that’s the reason why the inspection report quotes a number of different survivors, because we wanted to bring the victims’ voices to the fore.

We wanted this to be an opportunity for us to hear from victims themselves, how their lives are affected, how it is that they might have to completely change their way of working, their way of living, they might have to alter their routines. They might have to move house or they might be too frightened to leave home, just because they are victims of this sort of pernicious crime.

We didn’t just look at cases in isolation, because this is a form of offending that affects victims lives quite extensively: we commissioned the University of Worcester to interview victims of harassment and stalking, because we wanted to find out what their very real experiences were, so that that could inform our work.

Get the reports

Findings of the inspection are published in report below.

Read ‘Living in fear – the police and CPS response to harassment and stalking’

HMIC commissioned the University of Worcester to speak to victims and gain an insight into their experiences of harassment and stalking. Some of these experiences have been included in the HMIC and HMCPSI report and they are contained in full within the full research report.

Some of the case studies that illustrate the problems faced by victims of harassment and stalking are also available on the harassment and stalking case studies page.

Please note: all the victims’ names included in the report have been anonymised.

Further information

If you, or someone you know, is affected by any of the issues in this report, help is available.

You will find the website addresses and telephone numbers of organisations that provide help and support for people affected by harassment and stalking below.

National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300

The National Stalking Helpline is run by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Calls are free from all landline telephones and also from mobiles using the O2, Orange, T Mobile, Three (3), Virgin, and Vodafone networks. Calls will not be shown on BT landline bills.

Paladin National Advocacy Service: 0203 866 4107

Paladin National Advocacy Service is the only trauma informed national advocacy service for victims of stalking. They have independent stalking advocate caseworkers who can assist if you need specialist advice or support.

You can also contact:

If you wish to report incidents of stalking or harassment, please contact your police force directly.

Inspection information

Objectives

The objectives of the inspection are to:

  • assess whether the leadership and governance within forces supports their identification and response to cases of harassment and stalking;
  • assess the effectiveness of police forces at identifying and managing the vulnerability of victims and risk associated with offenders of harassment and stalking;
  • assess the effectiveness of police forces and the CPS at investigating and prosecuting cases of harassment and stalking; and
  • identify effective practice and make recommendations for practice improvements.

Judgment criteria

Subject General criterion Specific criterion
Strategy and leadership
1. There are effective strategies in place and strong leadership is demonstrated at local and national level.
1.1. There is effective strategic leadership at national level.
1.2. Police and CPS national guidance is available and fit for purpose.
1.3. The force/CPS area understands the nature and extent of harassment and stalking.
1.4. There is effective strategic leadership at force/CPS area level.
1.5. The force/CPS area has an effective lead/single point of contact (SPOC) for harassment and stalking
1.6. The force has an effective, clearly stated policy on harassment and stalking.
1.7. The force/CPS area has oversight and performance management arrangements in place in relation to harassment and stalking.
1.8. Police and the CPS provide effective training to officers in dealing with harassment and stalking and ensure that all relevant staff have received this training.
1.9. The force has effective planning in place to identify and meet current and future demands in dealing with harassment and stalking cases.
Identification
2. Police and the CPS identify reports of harassment and stalking effectively.
2.1. Police and CPS staff recognise reports of harassment and stalking including offences committed via digital channels.
2.2. Officers and staff recognise the likely impact of harassment and stalking offences on the victim.
2.3. Officers and staff understand the risks and links between harassment and stalking, and domestic abuse.
Assessment and management of risk
3. The police assess and manage the risk to victims from offenders effectively.
3.1. Police use risk assessment screening tools effectively to assess risk to victims and families.
3.2. The police are able to identify and highlight repeat victims and repeat offenders.
3.3. The police and the CPS respond appropriately to manage risks from offenders to harassment and stalking victims.
Victim care
4. Victims receive appropriate care and support from agencies.
4.1. Agencies are responsive to the needs of victims.
4.2. Victims receive the enhanced entitlements of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.
4.3. Victims feel safer as a result of effective engagement with agencies.
Investigation
5. Police investigations are conducted effectively.
5.1. Police investigations are timely and thorough.
5.2. Investigations are effectively supervised.
5.3. Decisions on disposal of cases are appropriate and taken at the right level by the appropriate police or CPS staff in accordance with guidance/protocols.
5.4. Victims are notified of decisions in a timely manner to ensure they are kept safe, especially where there is higher risk.
Prosecution
The CPS and police work together to progress cases involving harassment and stalking to court effectively.
6.1. Police case files accord with national file standards.
6.2. Prosecution decision-making is sound and meets the needs of the case.
6.3. Cases progress effectively and there is appropriate assurance.
6.4. The needs of victims and witnesses are met.