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Stalking and domestic violence – don’t suffer in silence

More than 1.1 million people experience stalking each year, according to the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

The latest law on stalking describes it as when an individual is “fixated and/or obsessed with another”, which can be shown by a pattern of persistent and repeated contact with a victim.  The Suzy Lamplugh Trust says that this can take many forms, whether sending flowers or carrying out physical or sexual assault.

Behaviour which is persistent, unwanted and causing fear, distress or anxiety is stalking and should not be tolerated.

In a recent report by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate said that victims were being left at risk because of failings by Police and prosecutors.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “Both the CPS and the Police need to do much more to ensure sufficient evidence is collected to prosecute the perpetrator without relying on victim’s testimony”.

Alongside these failings, victims of domestic violence are being denied the opportunity of escape due to the closure of specialist refuges in England.  National Charity, Women’s Aid says that almost a fifth of refuges have closed since 2010.

Many victims suffer at the hands of their perpetrators for months and years before taking that step to seek help only to then pick up the phone and find that there is nowhere to go.  Levels of refuge provision in England fall short by some 2.000 beds according to the minimum standards stipulated by the Council of Europe.  New legislation announced by the government earlier this year defining domestic abuse is welcomed however campaigners say it does little to address historic cuts to services and that funding for refuges should be ring-fenced to provide a long-term solution.

Even when the Police seem unwilling to offer assistance and/or specialist refuge accommodation is not available help is not lost.  Victims of domestic violence can seek assistance from the courts by applying for a non-molestation and occupation order protecting them from their perpetrator.  A non-molestation order if granted could protect a victim from further abuse and an occupation order could force a perpetrator to leave the family home and having done so be prohibited from returning to or within a defined area.

Legal Aid remains available for victims of domestic abuse in these situations.  Please do not lose hope if initial enquiries with those professionals prove unsatisfactory; contact Atherton Godfrey’s specialist Family Law department on 01302 320621 or alternatively by email at info@athertongodfrey.co.uk for confidential advice.

Whatever happens do not suffer in silence.

Author: Jayne Kirtley