Thousands of stalking incidents reported to Yorkshire police last year but only small handful resulted in legal protection orders

New legal powers to protect stalking victims were granted in just several incidents in Yorkshire last year, despite a record 6,663 incidents reported to police forces.

Reports of stalking have risen by as much as 3,200 per cent in five years in some parts of the region, according to data revealed by three of Yorkshire's four police forces who responded to freedom of information requests.

But powers to issue court orders allowing police to act quickly against a stalker have been given out just five times in West and South Yorkshire since their creation – while Humberside did not issue any.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Stalking Protection Order (SPOs) can be granted by courts to police so they can act at the earliest opportunity, and breaching an SPO is a criminal offence that could land you up to five years in prison.

Legal orders to protect stalking victims were granted in just several incidents in Yorkshire last year, despite rising reports of the crime

Only three SPOs were issued in West Yorkshire and two in South Yorkshire since they became available in January last year, despite stalking incidents rising from 97 to 3,196 and 89 to 2,053 respectively between 2015 and the end of 2020.

And while no SPOs were even applied for in Humberside last year, the police force saw 1,414 reports of stalking – up from 27 in 2015.

No data is available from North Yorkshire Police, who did not respond to the request.

Rises in stalking incidents can, in part, be attributed to increased victim confidence in reporting their stalkers with more than half of all police forces nationally seeing a surge in cases since 2019.

Legal orders to protect stalking victims were granted in just several incidents in Yorkshire last year, despite rising reports of the crime

But the national charge rate for stalking offences is at its lowest point for five years, falling from 23 per cent in 2015/16 to just six per cent for the nine months to December 2020.

Read More

Read More
Yorkshire stalking victim tells of her experience after man held her captive for...

Suky Bhaker, CEO of street safety charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, described the numbers as "incredibly concerning".

"The purpose of the stalker protection orders is to offer that early intervention for those victims," she said.

Legal orders to protect stalking victims were granted in just several incidents in Yorkshire last year, despite rising reports of the crime

"What's interesting is the data shows a concentration of stalking protection orders being received, where we know that there are specialist service provisions for victims of stalking, or where there has been enhanced training. Particularly in areas like London, or the stalking threat assessment centres in Sussex and Kent."

A Humberside Police spokeswoman said: “For police to apply for a SPO, the support of the person protected is required as well as sufficient evidence of stalking and future risk.

"If the suspect is likely to be prosecuted, an SPO would not be appropriate therefore are only applicable to a very small number of cases."

Detective Chief Inspector Allan Raw from West Yorkshire’s Safeguarding Central Governance Unit, said specialist training was given to officers and control room staff to identify and deal with stalking cases, and that the force regularly reviewed cases and worked with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

South Yorkshire Police's Lead for Stalking, Superintendent Cherie Buttle, meanwhile said: “As a force we will always seek to get justice for victims of stalking, prioritising enforcement action and arrests. This enables us to protect victims through measures such as bail conditions and restraining orders, with the ultimate aim of securing convictions."

York-based charity Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS), who also support victims of stalking and harassment, said more also needed to be done to change society's perceptions of stalking.

A spokeswoman said stalkers were often seen as "shadowy figures lurking in the dark", but that most stalking cases were carried out by ex-partners, taking the form of obsessive "romantic gestures" and using digital devices.

“Stalking is a serious offence that causes distress and alarm and can culminate in the perpetrator causing serious injury or murdering the victim or survivor.

"We would urge anyone who is being subjected to stalking behaviours or anyone who is worried that they may be experiencing stalking to contact a support service to assist with safety planning and emotional support," the spokeswoman said.