New police power to help stalking victims in Hampshire used just twice since inception
VICTIMS of stalking in Hampshire are not being protected by new legal powers, figures have revealed.
Statistics uncovered by the BBC Shared Data Unit show that Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) are not being made full use of by police forces across the country.
An SPO imposes restrictions on suspected stalkers – designed to make it easier to curb the behaviour of stalkers, with a lower burden of proof required than for a criminal conviction.
These orders have been available for police to use since January 2020, but as of April 30 this year, just six had been applied for by Hampshire Constabulary.
Of that six, only two SPOs were granted and in that same period, 1,536 incidents were reported to the police force.
Detective Chief Inspector David West, Hampshire Constabulary’s lead for stalking and harassment, said: ‘We work hard to support and protect victims of stalking and harassment, recognising its strong relationship to domestic abuse offending.
‘Stalking Prevention Orders are just one of several safeguarding measures we can use throughout an investigation. We are dedicated to increasing the number of SPOs going forward and are currently applying for nine of them.
‘To achieve this goal, we are building the skills and confidence of our officers and staff to recognise stalking behaviours and associated risk in order to improve our initial response to victims.’
More than half of all police forces have seen stalking incidents double between April and December 2020.
The average charge rate for stalking incidents across the country stands at seven per cent, with an average of six per cent in Hampshire.
This is significantly lower than neighbouring Surrey's 23 per cent for the same period.
DCI West added: ‘Hampshire Constabulary is actively participating in national and regional discussions concerning SPOs, sharing and learning from best practice.
‘We have undergone significant training around this change to ensure we are recording offences correctly, and officers have also been proactive in encouraging victims to report incidents to us.
‘While we are in line with the national average charge rate for stalking offences, we are working both internally and with forces across the country to learn more about why this is low.
‘Hampshire Constabulary takes all reports of stalking and harassment seriously, and all allegations are investigated thoroughly.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Stalking Protection Orders stop perpetrators in their tracks and prevent them contacting victims. We expect police forces to make full use of them.
‘The Home Office and College of Policing have worked closely with forces to produce guidance on issuing them.
‘Officials will meet with the police and other stakeholders who work to tackle stalking to set out our findings on how effectively police forces have been using SPOs and discuss how to improve this.’