Cheshire Police and North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit (IASU) in Halton and Warrington is one of three in the country and the first of its kind in the North West.
The work of the unit involves police officers, mental health professionals, outreach workers and victim advocates working together to protect victims of stalking.
The unit has received 260 case referrals since its launch in June 2018.
Of the referrals, 83 were taken on by the unit for further risk management – which has included direct contact with the victim and/or offender. Partners have worked together on the other 177 cases to ensure they are effectively investigated and managed.
This week, (8-12 April), is National Stalking Awareness Week, and to support the campaign, Cheshire Constabulary and North West Boroughs Healthcare are sharing the story of a woman stalked by her friend, and left petrified - until the IASU stepped in.
Pseudonyms have been used in this story to protect the identification of the victim.
Sarah and Andy, both in their early 30s, had been close friends. When Andy tried to become more intimate, Sarah broke off the relationship and things took a more sinister turn.
Andy became fixated with Sarah. Bombarding her with unwanted gifts, sending her constant emails, messages and phone calls. He would also loiter near to her home, making her feel uncomfortable and extremely frightened.
Sarah reported Andy to the police and explained to officers that she felt intimidated and scared by Andy – and often changed her own routines to self-manage her stress and anxiety.
The Local Policing Unit (LPU) referred the case to the IASU following a thorough review of the case and vulnerable person risk assessment - due to the nature of the complaint made to police.
Subsequent discussions were had with the relevant agencies and it was agreed that the case was consistent with stalking. While it was believed there was no physical risk to Sarah, there was a psychological risk and a risk that Andy could potentially demonstrate future stalking behaviour with other victims.
The Unit provided an enhanced level of support for Sarah, ensuring her safety - as well as tackling Andy’s stalking behaviour to establish the root cause of his offending.
Sarah also had access to the unit’s Independent Stalking Advocacy who supported her through the criminal proceedings - enabling her to articulate the psychological and emotional impact Andy’s action’s had on her in her statement, and ensure a robust restraining order was put in place.
Andy was successfully convicted. He was given a community order and a restraining order – and was not to have any contact with Sarah or to attempt to communicate with her at all.
Since conviction Andy has met with the unit’s outreach practitioners and agreed to work with the team, which formed part of the overall risk management. By working with the unit Andy was able to gain an understanding of the recklessness of his behaviour, and to work on strategies that would prevent him from reoffending.
Andy demonstrated an interest in understanding why he had engaged in the stalking behaviour and wished to understand how he could make changes in his life to avoid behaving in similar ways in the future.
He is currently engaging in bi-weekly interventions with the IASU and is committed to adhering to all conditions of the restraining order and probation as set out by the court.
Significantly, Andy reports he has no intention to seek out, contact, or communicate with Sarah - despite continuing to live in close proximity to her. The IASU is able to monitor and coordinate the wider policing response to enforce the restraining order and ensure any conditions are adhered to.
Although Sarah is aware of on-going risks, she feels empowered that her experience has been taken seriously by the police, and the involvement of the IASU has led to feelings of reassurance and reduced distress.
National Stalking Awareness week is about raising awareness of stalking and the stories behind the statistics. This year Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the National Stalking Consortium are focusing on the impact stalking has on victims' mental and emotional health as well as their physical safety.
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