The system is still failing stalking victims

Helen Pearson suffered 5 years of horrific stalking from a neighbour who had once asked her out for a drink.  Helen was terrorised by Joe Willis who mounted a systematic campaign against her bombarding her with death threats, criminal damage to her house and car with windows smashed on a regular basis, her locks glued, paint thrown at her house, a dead cat left on her doorstep, silent calls, text messages, threatening letters and the targeting of her family.

Helen kept a diary of the incidents and reported them to the police and after over 120 incidents Helen was finally attacked by Willis in a cemetery with a foot long pair of dressmaker’s scissors whereupon he stabbed her multiple times in the face, neck and back and broke her nose.  Helen felt convinced that she was going to be murdered by Willis and the attack was prevented by a woman who was driving past and intervened.

Willis is due to be sentenced shortly in relation to attempted murder.

The important issue however is why on earth was Willis not arrested prior to this incident for stalking?

We have had legislation preventing harassment for almost 10 years and legislation specifically targeted to prevent stalking for the last 18 months, thanks to a campaign by Paladin the national stalking advocacy service.

It would seem that notwithstanding the legislation the police and CPS are still not using it sufficiently.  Scotland are way ahead of England and Wales and bringing more than double the amount of stalking prosecutions.

There is clearly a massive need for intensive training of not just the police but also the other criminal justice agencies such as the CPS, Judiciary and Probation etc in relation to the devastating affects of stalking and the legislation available to assist.

The whole point of the legislation is that stalking can be dealt with without the need for it to become violent.  The newspapers are littered with examples of stalking victims who are eventually murdered by their stalkers such as Claire Bernal who was shot whilst working Harvey Nichols in London in 2005 and Jane Clough who was stabbed to death by her ex partner and stalker in 2010 in the car park at work.

Stalking is far more common than people first think and it is estimated that over 1 in 5 women and over 1 in 10 men will experience stalking in their lifetime.

It is high time that this devastating offence was taken seriously and that the law was put into practice.  Paladin offer training to front line professionals in relation to stalking and now also offer accredited training for would be independent stalking advocacy case workers.

Rachel Horman recently took part in a discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Victoria Derbyshire programme with stalking victim Helen Pearson. You can listen to the feature via Audioboo below.

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