Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said officers are “tied up” in the bureaucracy of recording incidents as new data shows just 3.7% of stalking allegations in the county resulted in a charge.
National figures analysed by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit found charge rates have fallen from 11% to 6% between 2020-2022, a continuing year-on-year trend from 2014/15 where it was as high as 37%.
In Lincolnshire, 40 out of 1,082 stalking outcomes in 2021/22 resulted in a charge, with 51.5% of the remaining cases dropped due to evidential difficulties with victim support, and 40.1% without.
In 2021, of the 19 cases that went as far as court, 14 were convicted – 74%, in 2020 there were 24 convictions out of 29 proceedings – a rate of 84%.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire Marc Jones, however, said the statistics “don’t stand on their own” and that many of the incidents were likely to be additional to an initial complaint.
“If a victim of stalking and harassment contacts the police the chances that they are just telling you about one incident is zero,” he said.
He praised victims of stalking and harassment for coming forward and encouraged people to report them, however said some will “have double, sometimes triple figures” of historic unreported incidents.
“If a victim said I have been followed to work by my ex-partner 10 times and before that, when they were my partner, they were looking at my finances constantly, every week over the last couple of years to dictate what I could spend – each one of those is a separate crime and each one the police now, under the rules, need to record.
“Proving every single instance is impossible so what you might find is that the perpetrator is brought to book for their actions the victim is safeguarded, that the police absolutely take action and ultimately a court sanction is gained, but not for the 50 or 100 incidents that made up the overall allegation.”
He said he had a “high level of confidence” officers were taking crimes seriously and would investigate incidents, however, said there were “some things which tie the police in knots from a bureaucracy point of view”.
He added the important thing was to ensure people report early and accurately to give victims the best possible positive outcome, to hold perpetrators to account and to break a negative cycle of behaviour in society.
Overall, the number of stalking incidents reported to the police have more than tripled, jumping from 32,000 cases in England and Wales three years ago to nearly 100,000 in 2021-22.
The Home Office says the rise is linked to a change in the way stalking offences are recorded.
A government spokesperson said: “We take our response to stalking extremely seriously, which is why we have doubled the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years.
“In January 2020 we introduced Stalking Protection Orders for police forces, a new civil order to protect victims of stalking at the earliest possible opportunity; 456 orders were issued in their first year.
“Last year we tripled our annual funding to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s National Stalking Helpline, and we are continuing to fund it this year.”