Amendment 292N

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (11th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 24th November 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health) 6:15 pm, 24th November 2021

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, has very ably set out the reasons why this amendment has been tabled, so I will be brief. Let me put it politely: the House will know that a number of us remain concerned that stalking is still not taken seriously by the Home Office, the Government and some parts of the criminal justice system. We know that training remains patchy, and that victims are still told they should be grateful for the attention of their stalker. That is why we tabled this amendment to create a stalking strategy—not for the first time; I have been tabling amendments on a stalking strategy for a decade—for training in recognising, and working in a truly multidisciplinary way to recognise, possible stalking perpetrators, and to let MAPPA professionals become involved at an early stage as soon as the possibility of fixated and obsessive behaviour emerges.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, told your Lordships’ House during the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, on consideration of Commons’ amendments, that the Government were consulting with different key parties in the criminal justice system to amend the guidance on MAPPA and to recognise and manage stalking. I thank her for sharing the proposed revisions to the statutory guidance. She said:

“Once the revised guidance is settled, we will promulgate it through a Written Ministerial Statement, and this will provide an opportunity to update the House on the delivery of the other commitments I have set out. Noble Lords talked about having some sort of debate in this place, perhaps after the Summer Recess.”—[Official Report, 27/4/21; cols. 2180-81.]

When will this be brought back to your Lordships’ House for such a debate?

The noble Baroness also said:

“We are also legislating already in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to put beyond doubt the powers of duty to co-operate agencies to share information under MAPPA by clarifying existing information-sharing provisions. We are investing new resources to tackle perpetrators, with an additional £25 million committed this year.”—[Official Report, 27/4/21; col. 2182.]

I understand that that is not just stalking perpetrators but perpetrators of a range of serious crimes.

Despite her encouraging us to bring back stalking-specific matters to this Bill because they were not appropriate for the Domestic Abuse Bill, it is noticeable that there is still no sign of a stalking strategy. It is as if stalking protection orders, now passed, are the magic answer, when actually they are part of the toolkit for managing fixated and obsessive perpetrators who may not come under domestic abuse legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell, demonstrated, the patchy application of SPOs is real evidence of the old problem continuing. The choice about how to apply the stalking laws remains with people inside the police and courts system.

In a case in Wales in the last two weeks, a man was charged with two incidents relating to stalking his ex-partner, but she had already moved home twice and it is evident from the case that this stalking had been going on for a considerable time. Can the Minister say what training is happening within all police forces and all the courts—family as well as criminal—and for social workers, among others involved in MAPPA?

It is 13 years since my stalker was convicted—after 100 incidents had happened—and close to 10 years since stalking was created as a separate offence from harassment, but people being stalked still have to face many issues in the system because there is no overarching strategy for dealing with stalking. It is time that there was.