University study finds victims of stalking left frustrated by system

Ipswich's University of Suffolk has commenced its 2020 academic year Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK

University of Suffolk research examined the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) scheme in stalking and harassment cases  - Credit: Archant

A University of Suffolk study has made recommendations after researchers found victims of stalking had been left frustrated by the justice system and not taken seriously. 

Academics from the University of Suffolk (UoS) published research examining the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR) scheme in stalking and harassment cases. 

The scheme provides victims of crime with a process to exercise the right to review certain decisions, including not to prosecute. 

UoS researchers asked every police force in the United Kingdom how many reviews had been received, and how many upheld, since the scheme was launched.

A total of 17 forces responded to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Suffolk Constabulary declined on grounds that it would exceed cost limits under the Act.

Responding forces received 386 requests for reviews from 2015 to 2020 – with 1% resulting in a 'no further action' decision being overturned and 4% being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision.

Alison Bird

Alison Bird, clinical lead for stalking at Solace Women’s Aid and visiting senior fellow for social policy at UoS - Credit: Alison Bird

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Alison Bird, clinical lead for stalking at Solace Women’s Aid and visiting senior fellow for social policy at UoS, said victims were often not told they can challenge a decision, and that the majority of reviews supported the original outcome.

"There is a lack of transparency in this process and it seems that the review is simply given to another colleague who automatically agrees with the first decision made by their colleague," she added.

"This presents like a tick box exercise that is immediately biased towards the initial decision. Victims of stalking are left frustrated, not taken seriously, the stalking continues and they are failed."

Research found that victims were usually only made aware of the scheme by their independent stalking advocacy case workers.

One victim told researchers it was not until this year that she discovered her case had been closed by police last March.

Dr Olumide Adisa University of Suffolk

Dr Olumide Adisa, head of the Centre for Abuse Research the University of Suffolk - Credit: University of Suffolk

Dr Olumide Adisa, head of the Centre for Abuse Research at UoS, said the fact that about a third of forces were unable to access the requested data within reasonable time and cost limits spoke to a lack of consistency in recording practices.

The study recommends greater coordination and uniformity in recording between forces, more robust guidance and procedures to ensure survivors are made aware of their right to review and are fully informed about possible outcomes, and access for survivors to a case worker to provide support and information.