Sussex Police and Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, are reminding people of assistance and advice available in support of National Stalking Awareness Week, 25-29 April, ‘Bridging the Gap‘. 

The week, organised by the National Stalking Consortium which is chaired by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, highlights the vital role that stalking advocates play in bridging the gap between the victim and the criminal justice system.

In Sussex, independent organisation Veritas Justice is in the frontline of stalking support and practice. The work with people affected by stalking in providing specialist advocacy and safety advice, and also work closely with police, agencies and professionals, to identify and understand stalking behaviours and the risks attached to this devastating crime.

Claudia Ortiz, founder of Veritas Justice, says; “Stalking is a serious public protection and public health issue that affects the lives of an estimated 5,053,000 million individuals every year. This year we will be highlighting the positive contribution that Stalking advocates make in bridging the gap between victims of stalking and the criminal justice system. In Sussex, there were 9917 reports of stalking in the last year alone.

“This means an ever-increasing pressure at a frontline level to respond effectively and efficiently to reports and disclosures of stalking as well as the need to develop a more comprehensive multiagency model to manage the risk posed by stalkers. In turn it inevitably means a need to improve sustainable access to specialist support in this complex area. 

“Stalking campaigns are often built on small, seemingly isolated and low-level crimes particularly in the way perpetrators are finding ever more innovative ways to target their victims, especially with the rise in cyber enabled stalking and the use of so called stalkerware. So the expertise of our specially trained advocates is of paramount importance in improving the safety and wellbeing of all victims of stalking in Sussex.”

Chief Inspector Jon Carter, Sussex Police lead on stalking issues, says; “We are committed to continually improving our understanding of stalking and harassment and our response to it.

“We are keenly aware that it can be hard for victims to deal with police investigations and court hearings on their own, and the role of stalking advocates in organisations such as Veritas Justice is absolutely vital in helping ensure  victims can keep their voice heard throughout. 

“We have improved training for officers and staff and have ensured specialists are on hand across the county to offer expert advice and support to colleagues every day to keep people safe. We want victims to be confident and know we will take all reports seriously.”

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who is also the National Stalking Lead for the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners, said: “This is an extremely important week in the calendar as we all come together to support victims of stalking. It is a devastating crime that has life-changing consequences for many victims yet it is still under-reported and often misunderstood. We must continue to raise awareness about what stalking looks like, how to report it and, most importantly, how to get proper protection and support.

“Victims of stalking should never have to live in fear or feel isolated and helpless. The theme of this week’s campaign, ‘bridging the gap’, teaches people about the fantastic work that Independent Stalking Advocates do and the vital role they play in helping victims of stalking through their journey to recovery – they literally are the angels of advocacy for a victim.

“In recent years, Sussex Police have made great strides in tackling stalking with improved training, proactive units and dedicated staff as well as innovative, specialised programmes that help to target perpetrators’ harmful behaviours.”

“I’m delighted that Sussex are now leading the way in this area but too many victims are still suffering in silence. We really need to change the cultural view of stalking as a minor crime or simply a nuisance. This week will hopefully focus everyone’s understanding of the severity of this pernicious crime and help to install confidence in victims to come forward and know they will be taken seriously.”

As soon as the Stalking Protection Act 2019 came into effect two years ago, Sussex was the first force in the country to secure Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) from the courts. The force has already secured 44 SPOs and applications for a further 11 are currently waiting hearings at courts in Sussex. 

These Orders equip police with valuable powers to better protect victims or anyone connected with them in stalking cases. Significantly, SPOs enable police to enforce both prohibitions and/or specific requirements.

A new police Unit has also been established in Sussex this year, the Complex Domestic Abuse & Stalking Unit, (CDASU) which co-ordinates all court applications for SPOs and supervises all the people who are subject to them, to help ensure compliance and to deal with any breaches.

Sussex Police, work with partners Interventions Alliance, who have initiated a specialist Stalking Perpetrator Programme, with extra government funding. Spaces are available for people who have been given an SPO and who agree to engage with specialist therapists in behavioural intervention therapy sessions. These are based on 12 1:1 consultations. The aim is to help the perpetrator to acknowledge, accept and recognise the difficult emotions and thoughts that trigger harmful behaviour, in turn helping them manage those emotions and behaviour without causing harm to others.

So far several people have been identified for participation in the programme with all new cases being considered.

But police emphasise that anyone who participate in these interventions but who still go on to offend will still be investigated for prosecution wherever possible.

In an extra move to help increase awareness of the stalking issue, there are also several marked police cars on the streets of Sussex with messaging that highlights the ‘FOUR’ behaviours of Stalking (Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted & Repeated) urging people to use their instinct and report it to police.

Chief Inspector Jon Carter adds; “As we transition out of the previous lockdown situation stalkers now have more opportunity to cross over into the physical world and so the risk to the victim is heightened.

“With many victims receiving over 100 text messages/emails/phone calls a day we know that these strong fixations can escalate and have a more sinister outcome.

“Your safety online remains particularly important and there are steps you can take to protect yourself. 

“In particular, don’t be tempted to ‘block’ your caller, delete messages or throw away gifts as they could be used as evidence later on. This might include audio recordings, films or pictures, copies of emails, text messages, screenshots and similar material. You can also keep a log of all the incidents that have occurred.

“Always report it. Getting help early will assist in protecting you. This can be done by contacting us online, by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.”

“It is important not to suffer in silence at this time. If you are experiencing behaviour that is Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted or Repeated (FOUR), then you are being stalked. It is a crime and you will be taken seriously when you ask for help.

“Please trust your instincts and report to the police. Specially trained officers and the team at Veritas Justice are here to help and support you.”

Carl Hall, Deputy Director of Community Development at Interventions Alliance, the group working with Sussex Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner on the Perpetrators project said; “We are pleased to be contributing to the safety of Sussex’s communities by delivering an intensive, specialist, targeted stalking intervention to perpetrators subject to Stalking Protecting Orders. We are committed to addressing the risks posed by stalkers and minimising risks to victims through this valuable partnership with Sussex Police and Veritas Justice.”

Some background and more detailed advice;

Police are already advising and supporting more stalking victims than ever, with more victims feeling confident to come forward to report offences.

The force recorded more than 9000 reports of offences involving stalking during 2021.

If you are being stalked or harassed it is important that you report it. Stalkers are fixated and obsessive offenders who will not stop.

Stalking is when someone shows repeated and unwanted attention towards another person. Often when individual incidents are put together they can reveal a pattern of obsessive behaviour.

Stalking is a crime that is distressing and malicious and is something no one should have to put up with.

Think FOUR. Is the behaviour;

F – fixated
O – obsessive
U – unwanted
R – repeated

Visit the Sussex Police website to learn more about stalking and harassment and how to report this dangerous and debilitating crime. 

For further information on local support services go to Safe Space Sussex  

You can report stalking or harassment online or by calling 101 or in person at your local police station.

But always call 999 if you are in danger. Our officers and staff will undertake a risk assessment and focus on keeping you safe.

If you would like further information about stalking or harassment, there are several organisations that specialise in providing advice and support to victims.

Veritas Justice is the local organisation which provides advocacy and support for victims of stalking. Also for details of an online chat facility, delivered by Veritas Justice for victims of stalking to easily reach out for help and advice during this time, go to their website 

The National Stalking Helpline provides advice and guidance to current or previous victims of stalking or harassment and can be contacted on 0808 802 0300.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust provides practical personal safety advice – you can call them on 020 7091 0014.