Amendment 292N

Part of Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill - Committee (11th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 24th November 2021.

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Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees 6:30 pm, 24th November 2021

My Lords, I thank the Minister, as usual, for her comprehensive reply and praise the fact that, unlike some incumbents on the Front Bench from time to time, she actually listens to the debate and tries to respond to points, which can be a refreshing change. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this mercifully short debate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, pointed out that there is still no sign of a comprehensive stalking strategy. We have heard that elements of it are coming together, but I am not sure that it would meet the requirement to be regarded as a completely comprehensive strategy—but we shall see when it happens. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made an extremely good point about the contrast between the extraordinarily high number of victims of stalking—nearly 900,000 women in one year—and the derisory level of prosecutions. There are echoes of what is happening with rape convictions, and that parallel is worrying.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, pointed to the case of Chloe. The phrase that resonated with me from that case was when Chloe said that she will probably live in fear for the rest of her life. That is the effect stalking can have on an entirely innocent individual. I sometimes think that not only do we not realise it; given the evidence from a lot of the agencies and individuals charged with trying to arrest or identify perpetrators, and to do something about it, I am not sure whether they understand the real effect stalking can have on people. That is where effective training comes in, to make them understand what they are dealing with and to help them deal with it in a much more proactive and sensitive way.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, speaking from direct experience of his time in the police force, once again put his finger on a critical problem. There is a cultural issue within the police force and some other statutory agencies that deal with stalking in understanding what it is in all its myriad guises, recognising it and knowing what to do about it—both for the victims and the perpetrators.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, echoed my déjà vu all over again by reminding us that the issue keeps stalking this House. It recurs again and again. The contributions have indicated just why that is the case.

I thank the Minister very much for her reply. I am pleased to hear of the different initiatives being undertaken, so the positive side of me welcomes that. The slightly more sceptical—and stalked—side of me thinks, “Here we go again.” Here we have a range of initiatives which may or may not be as joined up as we passionately believe they should be. Unless they are completely joined up, and unless one is clear about what they are there to do and how all the bodies and individuals involved are meant to act in pursuit of these initiatives, I have a horrible feeling. If Zoë Billingham’s successor did a similar report looking at the effect of all these initiatives in about two years’ time, I personally have no high degree of confidence that the findings would be different. That is a cause for concern.

I take the point that if we want to have a MAPPA debate, it is for this House to choose it. I am sure we will stalk the usual channels to try to ensure that it takes place. If the Minister is open to discussing this, in the extremely long time we have between now and Report, that would be very helpful. What I take away from this is that I understand all the initiatives taking place, particularly those focused on domestic abuse, for obvious reasons, but what about the other 45% of stalked women? I come back to those who are not in domestic abuse situations. Most of these initiatives are aimed at the domestic abuse arena, and I laud them, but what about the 45%? If we are to have a cohesive strategy—frankly, that is why we need one—the 45% have to be included so that we are looking at 100% of the problem. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 292N withdrawn.