Dozens of stalkers in the West Midlands have been charged, appeared in court and been convicted in the first year since it was made an offence in its own right, figures revealed today.
Figures show 39 people were charged and 32 were convicted, with a further three slapped with restraining orders, since stalking was criminalised in November 2012.
Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention. It is now illegal to stalk and there are more serious penalities for those whose stalking causes serious distress or fear of violence.
The MP who chaired an inquiry that led to stalking being made a specific criminal offence, Elfyn Llwyd, had warned that the new laws were still not being enforced enough and training on stalking online, in his words, had ‘barely commenced’.
But police chiefs in the West Midlands and Staffordshire insist they take reports of stalking ‘very seriously’.
Chief Inspector Kim Madill from West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “It was mandated that all front line officers and staff completed the programme of online training to ensure they were fully up-to-date with the new stalking legislation and police powers.
“Officers have also been advised to print out and keep a stalking and harassment leaflet, featuring all key messages, as an at-hand source of reference.
“West Midlands Police has gone further than the mandatory training by devising bespoke training packages which are for all sergeants and inspectors, which was delivered as part of supervisors’ mandatory training in the first quarter of 2013.”
Staffordshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Nick Baker added: “Staffordshire Police takes reports of this nature very seriously and will make every effort to secure evidence for a successful prosecution.
“Once an individual is arrested, officers will ensure the evidence is presented to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to make a decision on charging and the offence committed.
“Since the introduction of stalking offences we have charged five people, four men and one woman, with stalking offences.”
He said that included stalking involving serious alarm or distress, fear of violence and stalking on its own.
Two people were released on bail and three were remanded to appear before magistrates at court imminently.
The West Mercia Police force, meanwhile, charged 10 people with stalking and three people with stalking that causes serious distress or fear of violence.
Anyone who is a victim of stalking is urged to call police on 101.