Cheshire Police’s Harm Reduction Unit marks National Stalking Awareness Week
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Each year Cheshire Police supports National Stalking Awareness Week in its campaigning to raise awareness around a different issue related to stalking.
Denise and Lincoln Townley, who shared their experiences of stalking
This year the national campaign, which ran from 25 to 29 April, was called Bridging the Gap. It highlighted the vital role that stalking advocates play in bridging the gap between the victim and the criminal justice system.
It can be hard for victims to navigate police investigations and court hearings without support; this is why the role of advocates is so integral to ensuring that victims remain empowered by keeping their voice at the forefront of the case.
Cheshire Constabulary’s Harm Reduction Unit (HRU) is an integrated risk management service that specialises in tackling stalking. Within the unit are two full-time Specialist Victims’ Advocates, who are accredited Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers, as well as police officers, mental health professionals and probation officers.
The HRU featured in BBC Three’s Stacey Dooley: Stalkers documentary.
To support the national campaign, the HRU, headed by Detective Sergeant David Thomason, hosted an online conference: Bridging the Cheshire Gap: Specialist Independent Stalking Advocacy Service in Cheshire.
The conference, held on Thursday 28 April, was attended by 100 professionals from across Cheshire. It was opened by Detective Superintendent Louise Cherrington – Cheshire Constabulary’s Strategic and Regional Lead for Stalking.
The HRU Specialist Victims’ Advocates talked about their experience of working as part of the unique multi-agency team, shared case studies and answered delegates’ questions.
The Victim’s Voice session featured a victim of stalking who has been supported by the Specialist Victims’ Advocates. Delegates heard directly from the victim about their experience followed by a Question and Answer session.
Next up was Stalking Advocacy and the Police with Alex Beddard - a specialist cybercrime police officer in Cheshire Constabulary’s Cyber Unit. Alex has worked closely on a case with the constabulary’s stalking advocates. He shared details about his partnership with independent advocates and how it has benefited victims and his investigations.
The conference was closed by Professor Clive Ruggles from the Alice Ruggles Trust. Tragically, Alice was murdered in Gateshead on 12 October 2016, aged just 24. On 26 April 2017, her stalker was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 22 years. His controlling behaviour during their brief relationship had developed into a relentless campaign of stalking.
The Alice Ruggles Trust supports a call for greater investment for independent advocacy for stalking victims.
Following the conference Detective Sergeant David Thomason commented: “Today’s event was a poignant reminder of the impact we, as professionals, have when we enter people’s lives, often in the darkest of times. Our Specialist Victims’ Advocates are literally lifelines to stalking victims and we have heard from victims in Cheshire today that don’t know how they would have survived without their advocates’ support.
“I’m particularly grateful for all the contributors: Prof Clive Ruggles, Lisa who was a victim of stalking in Cheshire, and also Denise and Lincoln Townley who all bravely shared their experiences of stalking and are such brilliant ambassadors for specialist stalking advocacy.”