Victims of stalking in Sussex will be able to access specialist support services to ensure their ‘voices are heard and they are taken seriously’.
Figures from Sussex Police show a 363 per cent increase in reports of stalking between March and July 2017 compared to the same period the previous year, which the force has attributed to people being more confident in reporting and officers improving recognition and recording of the crime.
Community interest company Veritas Justice will help victims across Sussex to cope and recover, and will also raise awareness about the risks associated with stalking behaviours as well as championing victims’ rights.
The project will see two independent stalking advocacy case workers help 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.
Two years worth of funding is being provided by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who has contributed £62,500, and £30,000 from Sussex Police.
Sam Taylor, co-director of Brighton-based Veritas Justice along with Claudia Miles, said: “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.”
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.
Mrs Bourne added: “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.
“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.”
She continued: “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.”
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.
She explained: “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.
Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley, head of public protection at Sussex Police, 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.”
Victims of stalking can report it to Sussex Police by calling 101 or visiting https://sussex.police.uk/contact-us/report-online
Anyone in immediate danger should always call 999.
To contact Veritas Justicevisit http://veritas-justice.co.uk
Or to find out how to access local support services at www.safespacesussex.org.uk even if you haven’t reported a crime to the police.