Report Into Sussex Stalking Case
10 April 2019, 11:22
A report, commissioned following the murder of a 19-year-old woman from East Sussex, who was killed by her stalker, says stalking and harassment offences are not being investigated by police forces consistently or effectively.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has made a string of recommendations on how improvements could be made by Sussex Police, which records the second highest number of stalking offences in England and Wales.
It also called on the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to ensure forces around the country make improvements.
The inquiry into all stalking and harassment cases handled by Sussex Police was ordered after the murder of Shana Grice in Portslade in 2016.
She reported her ex-boyfriend 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 in March 2017.
In the report, inspectors said improvements had been made by the Sussex force but more needed to be done.
The report raised concerns that there was no single definition for stalking adopted by police forces and government departments, adding: "As a result, police forces are not consistently identifying stalking, and are not protecting victims as a result."
There were also concerns over cases where victims were targeted online.
The report said: "We are concerned that Sussex Police's response to victims of stalking or harassment is not always as effective and consistent as it could be. This is because not all officers have received enhanced stalking training."
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, according to the findings.
Not enough victims are being referred to specialised support services, the report said.
Lane's trial prompted widespread calls for action to ensure victims are taken seriously by police.
He pursued Miss Grice by fitting a tracker to her car, stole a house key to sneak into her room while she slept, and loitered outside her house. It later emerged 13 other women had reported him to police for stalking.
The force apologised for the way it handled the case and on Tuesday confirmed some officers would be facing disciplinary action over the death after the Independent of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated 14 officers and staff.
On the same day the IOPC said a police call handler from the force had been given "management advice for failing to record Michelle Savage's reports of escalating violence by her ex-husband Craig in March last year who shot her dead eight days later.
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, who commissioned the report, said she hoped it would improve the force's response "dramatically" and scrutinise how other bodies were handling stalking.
It is the first time a commissioner has ordered HMICFRS to carry out such a report.
Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Nick May said: "The report acknowledges 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 said officers were committed to continuing to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice and although the force's percentage average for charging perpetrators had "decreased", there were "numerous reasons" why victims may not support a prosecution.