PCC invests in first Sussex-wide service for victims of stalking

21/08/2017

A support service for victims of stalking in Sussex is to be commissioned by Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne following the success of a pilot project in Brighton & Hove to understand the demand for specialist support.

For the first time the service, run by community interest company Veritas Justice, will help victims county-wide to cope and recover as well as raising awareness of the risks associated with stalking behaviours and championing victims’ rights.

The funding for the scheme comprises £62,500 from the Police & Crime Commissioner and £30,000 from Sussex Police over the next two years.

“I look forward to helping Veritas Justice build on the success of our pilot project in Brighton and Hove,” says PCC Katy Bourne. “The pilot, established in 2015, highlighted that there is a very real need for a consistent, professional and effective service to support stalking victims across the whole of Sussex.”

The project will see two independent stalking advocacy case workers work with people affected by stalking, who will be referred to the service by Sussex Police, the National Stalking Helpline, Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service and other partner agencies from across Sussex.

“It's been clear to me for some time that we need to invest in a local specialist service for victims of stalking and support needs to be available whether or not victims wish to make a report to the police. The support of experienced and trained case workers can make a significant difference to a victim and the professionals working with them,” added Mrs Bourne.

In July an inspection of six forces, including Sussex Police, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found that people who have suffered repeated harassment or stalking are frequently being let down by under-recording, inconsistent services and a general lack of understanding about these types of offences.

Mrs Bourne has commissioned HMIC to carry out a further independent inspection later this year.

Sussex Police has reviewed all aspects of how it deals with stalking and harassment and I want to ensure those learnings have been fully implemented”, said Mrs Bourne.

“Part of Veritas Justice’s aim is to improve the identification, reporting and prosecution of stalking offences in our local area. We also need to increase confidence and safety for victims so they know they are listened to and believed,” continued Mrs Bourne, whose office also oversees a Sussex-wide stalking and harassment working group made up of partners from 10 different organisations.

Brighton-based Veritas Justice combines professional expertise with personal experience to inform, advocate, and support victims of stalking and to train professionals to better identify and support individuals affected by stalking.

Sam Taylor, co-director of Veritas Justice along with Claudia Miles, says: “This advocacy service will ensure that victims’ voices are heard and that they are taken seriously.

“Stalking is one of the most debilitating crimes that can be experienced. The relentless and repetitive nature of it gives victims no respite and limited opportunities to recover. These patterns of terrorising behaviours become invasive and all-consuming, posing significant risks to the safety of their victims.

“It is of paramount importance that we implement learning by providing a sustainable service that responds to the complexities of this type of crime and capitalises on the groundwork established during our pilot.”

Figures from Sussex Police show a 363% increase in reports of stalking between March and July 2017 compared with the same period the previous year, attributed to people becoming more confident in reporting and officers improving recognition and recording of the crime.

Part of the service to be provided by Veritas Justice will include training for police officers and staff, including call handlers, on how to spot the signs of stalking.

Head of Public Protection, Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley said: “The training and support delivered by Veritas will further enhance the knowledge of officers and staff to ensure that we recognise stalking at the earliest opportunity and this will also provide the best response to safeguard victims. I am extremely pleased that as a result of this joint funding the excellent local advocacy service already provided by Veritas will have the ability to support more victims, at a time when recording of stalking is increasing.”

If you’ve been a victim of stalking, you can report it to Sussex Police by calling 101 or visiting https://sussex.police.uk/contact-us/report-online. If you’re in immediate danger, always call 999.
To contact Veritas Justice, please visit http://veritas-justice.co.uk

You can also find out how to access local support services at www.safespacesussex.org.uk, even if you haven’t reported a crime to the police.

Notes for editors

Since the specific focus on stalking by Sussex Police has been introduced, comparative recording data from the same period over 2016 and 2017 shows:

Period  2016 2017 % increase
March 22 70 218%
April 15 51 240%
May 13 74 469%
June 12 53 342%
July 8 76 850%
Total 70 324 363%

To watch a video of Veritas and the effects of stalking, please visit https://youtu.be/83naxTQBcT0

For more information on Veritas Justice, please email info@veritas-justice.co.uk

 

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