Sussex

Stalking should be treated as 'really serious crime' says PCC

Katy Bourne, Sussex police and crime commissioner
Image caption Katy Bourne said her experience with police over stalking "wasn't really the best"

A police and crime commissioner has called on fellow PCCs to take the crime of stalking more seriously.

Sussex PCC Katy Bourne said she was left "frustrated" by the legal system after she was stalked for five years.

She urged PCCs to adopt measures such as those she had introduced in Sussex, including a specialist support service for victims of stalking,

"I want all PCCs to step up the plate and take this on board as being a really serious crime," she said.

"I have been a victim and I do know how it feels."

'Fixated and obsessed'

The stalking of Ms Bourne, a Conservative, began after she was elected as PCC.

The man became "really fixated" and obsessed, but she ignored it, hoping "it would go away", she said.

"He wasn't just going to take me down professionally; he was going to take me down personally.

"I reported it to police and I have to say my experience wasn't really the best."

Her complaint was handled by another force, which, she said, "took a while" to understand the situation.

"My great frustration was the Crown Prosecution Service said that, despite nearly five years of evidence, there was no case to answer," she said.

Ms Bourne then took out an injunction against her alleged stalker.

A CPS spokeswoman said: "We received a file from the police in March 2017 in relation to an allegation of harassment linked to online blogs.

"After careful consideration of all the evidence, including the nature of the blog posts and the actions of the suspect in deleting material from the internet following his arrest, we concluded the evidential test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors was not met and therefore no charges were authorised."

'Victims let down'

Three years ago Ms Bourne carried out a review and, finding no support for victims of stalking, funded with Sussex Police a new specialist support service.

She said officers and prosecutors CPS were now also being trained to understand the effects of stalking.

Previously officers had recorded individual instances, but not always seen them as part of a "bigger picture", she said.

"It's a pattern of behaviour that escalates over time. That's what makes it so dangerous," she said.

Since the review, she said. there had been an eight-fold increase in cases reported to Sussex Police, while the number solved had risen by two-thirds.

"If this is happening in Sussex, what worries me is that this crime is also happening elsewhere and other forces aren't giving it the attention that it needs," she said.

"Victims are out there being let down nationally."

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