Sussex Police ordered to improve stalking probes
Stalking and harassment offences are not being properly investigated by Sussex Police, a report has found.
The official report was commissioned following the murder of 19-year-old Shana Grice by her ex-boyfriend.
She had reported Michael Lane to officers five times in six months but was fined for wasting police time. He was jailed for 25 years for her murder.
The report said more improvements were needed to support victims. Sussex Police accepted more needed to be done.
Three police officers are facing disciplinary action over the case.
Stalking and harassment is more common in Sussex than the national average, the report said. About 9% of crime in the county is harassment and 2% is stalking, compared with 2% and 0.1% nationally.
Online stalking concerns
The report, by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), said a training programme introduced after Miss Grice's murder to help staff better understand and identify stalking was "never fully completed" and most investigating officers had not received any training.
Not enough victims were being referred to specialised support services, the report said, adding that there were also concerns over cases where victims were targeted online.
It added that nationally, police forces were not using powers under stalking laws to search perpetrators' homes so stalking investigations were "not as thorough as they could be".
Victims of harassment were not being properly protected because injunctions were not being used, it added.
The report also called on the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to ensure forces around the country make improvements, and called for a single definition for stalking to be adopted by police forces and government departments.
Sussex's Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who commissioned the report, said in 2018 she had been a victim of stalking.
She hoped it would improve the force's response "dramatically" and scrutinise how other bodies were handling stalking.
The force has been given three months to make improvements.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: "The report acknowledges that we have significantly improved our understanding of what stalking and harassment is and what our response should be.
"It also sets out where there is even more work to do, and we accept this."
He added: "The inspection has provided a benchmark of progress made to date, but Sussex Police are the second-highest recorder of stalking offences after the [Metropolitan Police]… There are numerous reasons why victims do not always wish to support a criminal conviction."