A new package of measures to improve the way that the criminal justice system deals with stalking and harassment was unveiled in May last year.
The measures - introduced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) - are said to represent a “significant shift” in the way such cases are dealt with.
Central to the package of measures is improved direction for police and prosecutors about how to recognise the difference between stalking and harassment and respond effectively.
A CPS statement said: “Both the police and CPS acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve how the criminal justice system responds to stalking and harassment cases, particularly around identifying patterns of behaviour rather than looking at incidents in isolation.”
Speaking at the time, CPS lead for Stalking and Harassment, Joanna Coleman, said: “Stalking and harassment are often among the most complex offences that police and prosecutors deal with, and frequently involve victims who have faced harrowing experiences at the hands of manipulative offenders.
“(The new) protocol indicates a significant shift in how police and prosecutors are expected to respond to cases. By assessing the full context of an allegation, including the suspect’s behaviour and the cumulative impact that has had on a complainant, police and prosecutors will need to specifically answer why a case does not meet the description of stalking.
“Investigating and prosecuting these crimes requires a considered approach that looks beyond one-off incidents towards the pattern of behaviour, and how this has affected the safety and wellbeing of a victim and their family.
“Along with improved training and guidance, we hope this will lead to stalking cases being identified faster, and handled more effectively.”
What does Lancashire Police say?
Det Supt Ian Whitehead, head of Public Protection, said: “The force has significantly improved its ability to identify offences of Stalking & Harassment (S&H) resulting in a significant increase in the recording of crimes under this category.
“In the past these crimes may have been classified as malicious communications for example but are now rightly recognised as S&H cases. This allows us to better understand the risk which means we are more proactive in responding to such cases.
“At the end of last year we revised our practise and policy to ensure that staff are clear on the need to take positive action in response to reports of stalking and harassment. Whilst positive action can include prosecution, we work closely with victims to try to achieve the best possible outcome in each case.
“This remains a priority area of business for us and we are committed to continuing to improve our response to help victims who need our support.