‘Things must change’: Powerful words said during Gracie’s Law debate in Westminster

Gracie Spinks’ parents have presented MPs with a high-profile petition aimed at tackling stalking.

Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 2:41 pm

The Gracie’s Law petition calls for more funding for police forces to provide advocates to support stalking victims – and help officers investigate cases more thoroughly.

Gracie, 23, of Chesterfield, was killed in Duckmanton last summer – four months after she contacted police to make an allegation of stalking about her murderer, whose body was also discovered on the same day.

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Gracie Spinks' parents Richard and Alison took the Gracie's Law petition to Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins in Westminster.

The Gracie’s Law petition, which has more than 105,000 signatures, was discussed for around 90 minutes at Westminster Hall on Monday.

Opening the debate, Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, a member of the petitions committee, paid ‘heartfelt tribute’ to Gracie’s parents, Richard and Alison.

“The trauma that they have gone through is unimaginable, and I hope that I am able to do them and Gracie proud today,” she added.

She also thanked Chesterfield campaigner Jackie Barnett-Wheatcroft for starting the important petition.

Gracie adored horses.

The MP added: “Gracie’s case is a tragic reminder of what seems to be the ever-rising problem of violence against women and girls.

“Gracie had reported her stalker to the police which, as we know, takes a huge amount of courage.

“Many women are dismissed by the police when they report violence perpetrated by men.

“When women approach the police for support, they are often turned away and made to feel as though they are wasting police time.

RIP Gracie.

“If someone is mugged or burgled, they are not asked to provide evidence, but a victim of stalking is – the onus is put on the victim.

“Many stalkers are also guilty of other crimes against their victims – affray, criminal damage, voyeurism and other offences are often recorded in stalking cases.

“If a stalking advocate were on a police force, a link between those offences could be established and we could avoid such cases as those that we are talking about today.”

She added: “Time and again, we have seen cases of women murdered by men who they have recently or previously complained about.

Gracie's parents previously told the Derbyshire Times their daughter's death came after a 'total failure of basic policing'.

“It can't go on like this.

“The Government must now recognise that we have an epidemic on our hands.

“Gracie’s parents have made it clear that they will not let this go – I will not let it go, either.

“Things must change.

“I will continue to fight for women everywhere who are suffering at the hands of men.”

Toby Perkins, Chesterfield Labour MP, said: “The petition is of tremendous importance.

“I was asked in a TV interview how important the debate was and I had to say: ‘It’s all about the actions that the Government takes’.

“We are in the later stages of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and we are told that the Government also intends to introduce a victims’ bill.

“Both those bills seem to be appropriate vehicles to bring forward a Gracie’s law, to ensure that funding is provided for a stalking advocate in every police force, leading to better protection for victims of stalking, and that those obligations on police forces are written into law.

“We can never say that Gracie will be the last victim of a stalker.

“Tragically, that is almost certainly not the case – but those of us in this place can resolve to do all we can to ensure that police forces understand the crime and have the resources to tackle it, so that more families like Gracie’s are not left asking ‘why wasn’t something done?’”

Mark Fletcher, Bolsover Conservative MP, said education in schools on consent and relationships was ‘key’.

Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean said stalking was ‘at the heart’ of a recently-published Government strategy on tackling violence against women and girls.

She told how the Government was providing £11.3million of funding to Police and Crime Commissioners to run programmes aimed at combatting stalking.

Ms Maclean said the Government was committed to improving the use of stalking protection orders and added that several police forces, including Derbyshire, were running training specifically to address the crime.

She also confirmed the Government will release a national education campaign about violence against women and girls, describing this as a ‘groundbreaking piece of work’.

Referring to Gracie’s parents Richard and Alison, Mr Perkins said: “There is almost nothing worse for a parent than attending their child’s funeral, but to attend the funeral of their child in such circumstances, while thinking that steps might have been taken to prevent it, is an unspeakable anguish that no parent should have to tolerate.

“They have responded to that appalling chasm of grief by saying that they want to get something positive out of it.

“They know that they cannot bring Gracie back – but they want to support other families so that they do not suffer the same kind of grief.

“That is inspirational and it makes me very proud to have them as constituents and friends.”

Richard and Alison said: “We are hopeful that all members of Parliament will respond and make changes in the current legislation, and provide funding for stalking advocates for stalking victims and ongoing support for these victims, along with tougher sentences for stalkers.

"We, as parents of Gracie, will not let this cause go and will continue to pursue changes in the system to make the world a safer place for girls, women and men.”

They also thanked everyone for their ongoing support.

Petition creator Jackie said: “The petition has been accepted into Parliament, so this means that it now becomes a Parliamentary issue to be actioned on.

“Ms Maclean is very enthusiastic about the issue.

“She has already instigated changes with police after a meeting we had earlier in January.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is continuing to investigate Derbyshire Constabulary following Gracie's death.

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