A Home Office review of the use of new Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) found that just 25 had been issued in the North East between January 2020 and January 2021 – with one interim order issued in the Cleveland Police force area, which includes Hartlepool.
This week is Stalking Awareness Week, and Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Steve Turner is using the occasion to highlight the problem, and what can be done by officers to stop it.
Legislation passed in 2019 granted police powers to apply to Magistrates’ Courts for the new civil orders, which place restrictions on suspects to address stalking behaviours before they escalate or become entrenched.
Mr Turner said: “Stalking is a terrifying ordeal for victims and the fear of their stalker can prevent them enjoying their lives to the full.
“Stalking protection orders can be very effective in restricting the behaviour of suspects before they are convicted, reducing any further distress or harm caused to their victim while police investigate.
“It’s important that all police forces see them as a powerful tool and use them where appropriate to safeguard victims and prevent further harm.”
Cleveland Police received 1,635 reports of stalking and 4,394 reports of harassment in 2021.
Mr Turner said how Cleveland Police responds to reports of stalking and harassment was the focus of a recent scrutiny session he held with leaders of the force.
He highlighted a complaint received his office in which a victim raised concerns about why an SPO was not used.
Since the session, the force has secured a further interim SPO against a persistent stalking perpetrator.
Mr Turner said senior leaders from the force also provided the PCC with information about other types of civil orders they successfully secure to protect victims of domestic abuse, such as non-molestation orders or domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs).
The PCC said he feels the force still has some way to go on this issue and has requested further discussions take place between the PCC’s team and Cleveland Police in relation to stalking.