Derbyshire Police fail to use protective powers against stalkers, figures show
Protective powers which can stop stalkers harassing their victims are not being used by Derbyshire Police, figures show.
The new civil order - known as a Stalking Protection Order (SPO) - can curb stalkers’ predatory behaviour, with a lower burden of proof needed than for a criminal conviction.
Police can apply for SPOs at magistrates courts - allowing them to intervene early and deter perpetrators with the prospect of a five-year jail term when they are breached.
A BBC Freedom of Information request shows that 2,558 stalking crimes were recorded in Derbyshire between from 2015 up to December 2020.
However the county police force applied for just four SPOs during that time - with three being granted by courts and one rejected.
Though the data shows most police forces across the country fared little better - in Wales only two orders were granted despite more than 4,000 stalking incidents recorded.
There were 1724 reports of stalking in Derbyshire between April and December last year.
Shockingly, this is nearly three times higher than the figure for the year ending in March 2020 - at 580.
Nationally, 59,950 incidents were recorded - almost double the annual number of incidents for the year ending in March 2020.
SPOs were first introduced in January 2020 and Derbyshire Police admit “it takes time for the use of these types of orders to begin being used on a regular basis.”
Speaking about the stark increase in records of the crime DCI Darren De’ath explained that “ex-partner harassment” offences were now recorded as “ex-partner stalking”.
However he added: “It is fair to say that during the period of lockdown that, unlike other crime types, stalking offences did increase.”
Stalking has not not yet been legally defined but the law does give a number of examples of behaviours associated with it.
They include following a person, monitoring the use by a person on the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, watching or spying on a person and interfering with any property in the possession of a person.
During one worrying example of the crime Chesterfield Magistrates Court heard how Tideswell man Paul Weir smeared mud over his ex-girlfriend's car “two to three times a week” for three months after she broke off their two-year relationship.
Weir, of Queen Street, Tideswell, caused nearly £6,000 damage to his scared ex’s vehicle by soiling it with muck over 30 times - scratching windows and paintwork.
While in another unnerving case estranged husband Daniel Woods, 35, of Cinderhill Road, Nottingham, filmed his ex-partner in bed in her Chesterfield home with a hidden camera and then sent her the footage.
Since the emergence of the BBC’s findings most commentators are in agreement more training is required by police forces to understand how to apply stalking law.
Suky Bhaker, CEO of stalking charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “Victims tell us time and time again that when they are calling up the police the context of behaviour isn't being understood.
“Stalking is about a pattern of behaviour and and often when victims call the police an isolated incident is what's been recorded rather than the full pattern of putting that together.”