Ten Years On: Stalking in Kirklees, Policing and Support for Victims

SSI researchers are carrying out an action research project which will contribute to improving the policing of stalking and support for survivors/victims.

What is Stalking?

Stalking is defined by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust as:

A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim.

The behaviours can be offline (such as visiting the victim’s home or place of work, following the victim or leaving gifts), or online (such as unwanted social media communication, calls, texts, emails, hacking and spyware).

For more information please visit www.suzylamplugh.org/faqs/what-is-stalking

Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service defines stalking as:

A pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour, which is intrusive and causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress

POST (2018) note that:

Stalking and harassment both involve repeated behaviours that can cause alarm, distress or fear of violence in a victim. However, stalking is perpetrated by obsessive individuals whose behaviours disrupt a victim’s life and may escalate to other crimes.

Stalking is increasingly digitally facilitated, with perpetrators using digital technology, often referred to as cyberstalking. Stalking can be entirely online or have a digital element. This is increasingly recognised in research and online stalking cases are increasingly featured in the media (click here for an example).

Stalking Behaviours

Stalking victims are varied and many forms of behaviour have been identified as stalking behaviours, the National Stalking Helpline data base has 27 stalking behaviours (White et al 2022) that can be selected when creating records for reports made by victims/survivors. These include: watching; spying; loitering; phone calls; emails; text messages; letters; following; social networking sites (contact via social media); visit house/work; in/through workplace; gifts; third-party contact; vexatious complaints; threats; revenge porn; harassment; hacking technology; tracking device; threaten suicide; break-in; criminal damage; physical assault; sexual assault; death threats; stalking behaviours unclear; and other. This highlights how variable the experience of stalking can be.


Funder and Timescale

The research is being funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of their program ‘Partner with the police to tackle violence against women’.

The project commenced in early September 2022 and will be completed by September 2023. There are three phases to the project.

Research Context

Stalking is a crime, specific stalking offences were introduced into law in England and Wales, over ten years ago, in 2012 as amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Findings reported from national studies show an increase in stalking reports during the pandemic (ONS 2021, Suzy Lamplugh Trust 2021). Stalking is included in the governments national strategy on violence against women and girls (Home Office 2021).

It is estimated that in the year ending March 2020, there were 1.5m victims of stalking, in England and Wales (ONS British Crime Survey 2020), stalking is a crime which is under reported to the police. There has been a large increase in reports of stalking across West Yorkshire in the last two years, including in the Kirklees district, but convictions for stalking offences are low. There is no recent research on stalking in West Yorkshire nor has there been any specialist support provision for victims. The project will bring the issue of stalking from the margins to the centre in policy and practice addressing violence against women and girls in Kirklees.

There has been a large increase in reports of stalking across West Yorkshire between 2020 and 2022, including in the Kirklees district, but convictions for stalking offences are low. There is no recent research on stalking in West Yorkshire nor has there, until very recently, been any specialist support provision for victims in Kirklees.

Stalking is often domestic violence and abuse related, in the year ending 2021 36% of all stalking and harassment offences recorded by the police in England and Wales were domestic abuse-related (ONS, 2022) and research has highlighted that stalking is a high risk factor in domestic homicide (Monckton-Smith et al 2017) with 75% of victims having reported stalking or harassment previously. Yet offenders can also be strangers or acquaintances.

Although stalking is a gendered crime, the majority of victims are women and the majority of perpetrators are men, it is important to recognise that people of all genders can be victims/survivors of stalking. Stalking can be domestic violence and abuse related i.e. with offenders being current or former intimate partners, but it can also involve offenders who are acquaintances or strangers. Most stalking cases now have a digital element or are entirely online stalking, this is increasingly recognised in research (add reference), online stalking cases are increasingly featured in the media e.g. https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/crime/woman-reveals-how-internet-stalker-made-her-life-hell-offences-reported-west-yorkshire-police-rocket-59-cent-633511.

Men & Boys

As this project is funded under the ESRC ‘Working with the police to tackle violence against women and girls’, program  our project is focused on the experiences of women and girls. In doing so we do not intend to minimise or erase the experiences of men and people of other gender identities.   We are exploring opportunities for action research to explore the policing of stalking in the case of victims who identify as men and boys.

We adopt an intersectional approach to stalking recognising that the experiences of stalking, policing and support will be different for various communities shaped by intersectional structural inequalities.

Research  has identified a whole range of negative effects on stalking victims' psychological and physical health and has established a link to domestic murder (Monckton-Smith, et al 2017), making prevention and early intervention particularly important. There has been an increase in reports of stalking across West Yorkshire in the last two years, including in the Kirklees district, but convictions for stalking offences are low. West Yorkshire (WYVRU 2022) identified a gap in research on stalking in West Yorkshire and there has not  been any specialist support provision for victims. For these reasons this project has been develop to bring the issue of stalking from the margins to the centre in policy and practice addressing violence against women and girls in Kirklees. Also ten years on from the introduction of stalking offences into the law in England and Wales it is timely to examine the policing of stalking and the support available for survivors.

Project Objectives

Overall the project aims to establish a clearer picture of stalking in Kirklees, including how West Yorkshire Police are currently policing stalking and identifying gaps in support for survivors, so they can get the protection and support they need, as early as possible to ensure their safety and reduce trauma.

The project specifically aims to:

  • Set up a stalking research, prevention and practice hub linked to the Secure Societies Institute: this will be a forum through which practice and academic learning from the project will be shared across Kirklees, West Yorkshire and beyond.
  • Review police data on stalking and investigative decision making in stalking.
  • Identify current support for victims of stalking in Kirklees and reviewing best practice for stalking victims/survivors.
  • Consult women who have been survivors/victims of stalking about their experiences of support and policing, get their views on improving support and criminal justice responses.
  • Produce a codesigned model for a stalking support provision, produced with victims of stalking, their advocates, domestic and sexual abuse services, women's and girls services and other organisations.

When the project was launched the studies principal investigator stated:

Across West Yorkshire there is a lot of work going on to better prevent violence against women and girls and provide better support for survivors. We will contribute to that work by carrying out action research which can improve stalking prevention, policing and specialist support for survivors. It’s important to me that we will be working with people of lived experience of stalking, to inform the project and it’s outcomes. One of which is to produce recommendations for the design of a specialist stalking provision for Kirklees.

Stalking Research, Prevention and Practice Hub

As part of this project we will establish a stalking research, prevention and practice hub, as part of the Secure Societies Institute. This is intended to facilitate the expansion of partnership working and to disseminate research findings and best practice knowledge about stalking initially focused on Kirklees. As part of the project we will deliver a range of knowledge exchange activities, at the later stage of the project we will share findings across Kirklees and more widely across West Yorkshire. The Hub will provide a forum for all partnership knowledge and working to be shared and accessed in one place.

We want to complement and further raise awareness in West Yorkshire, about the work and resources offered by organisations nationally raising awareness about stalking and encouraging best practice. For example;

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust who deliver the national stalking helpline.

The Paladin Trust, national stalking advocacy service, who’s mission is ‘to have a society intolerant of stalking. A society where the victim gets the right response at the right time enabling them to live safely, free from stalking. A society that holds perpetrators accountable for their behaviour’. a

If you are interested in getting involved in the hub contact r.campbell@huds.ac.uk

We will update on hub developments here.

Research Team and Partners Funders

Dr Rosie Campbell OBE, Senior Research Fellow, is the Principal Investigator on the project “Ten Years On: Stalking in Kirklees policing and support for victims”. She will bring her experience of action research around violence against women and service development for women from marginalised communities. She is working with Co-investigator Professor Jason Roach, who will bring his expertise in policing and specifically police investigative decision making to the project.

Megan Bennett, Evaluations and Research Officer from West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit will be seconded on a part time basis to work on the project. Dr Kate Wood, University of Huddersfield will also be involved in the project on a part time basis.

The project was developed with a range of partners who will continue to be involved throughout the project, these are West Yorkshire PoliceWest Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (West Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority), Safer Kirklees and Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership.

The logos for West Yorkshire Violence Reduction; West Yorkshire Police; Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership & Safer Kirklees

When the project was launched Professor Jason Roach, Director, stated that:

We developed the project application with key partners, West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Violence Reduction Unit), Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership, West Yorkshire Police and Safer Kirklees. Partnership is central to the project and we hope that many more organisation will get involved especially via the Stalking Research and Knowledge hub that we will establish within the Secure Societies Institute. Whilst our geographical focus for the project is Kirklees, the learning from our project will be shared across West Yorkshire and beyond.

The project was developed with a range of partners who will continue to be involved throughout the project, these are West Yorkshire PoliceWest Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit (West Yorkshire Combined Mayoral Authority), Safer Kirklees and Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership.

Research Methods

We will be using the following methods:

  • Scoping current specialist support for stalking survivors/victims in Kirklees.
  • Reviewing international research and practice literature on stalking, including best practice for support and policing.
  • Consulting survivors, hosting a number of inclusion and co design events, working closely with Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership, other partners and stakeholders who get involved.
  • Carrying out interviews with survivors of stalking to seek their views on improving support and policing.
  • Analysing police stalking data.
  • Carrying out interviews with survivors of stalking to seek their views on improving support and policing.
  • Carrying out interviews with police officers.
  • Reviewing international research and practice literature on stalking, including best practice for support and policing.

The project will adopt a trauma informed approach to research and is informed by the principles of participatory action research.

Updates & Resources

For ongoing updates on the project follow @SecureSocities on Twitter or check out this webpage.

Click here to download a copy of the Stalking in Kirklees Project Introductory Flyer

Support Contacts

If you are experiencing stalking, or have in the past, and want to access support or information contact:

Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership: on their 24 hour free helpline 0800 052 7222

West Yorkshire Independent Stalking Advocacy Service (West Yorkshire Victim Support): call 03003 730978 or email WY_ISAC_Service@victimsupport.org.uk or contact the charity’s national 24/7 support line on 08 08 16 89 111.

National Stalking Helpline: call on 0808 802 0300 during opening hours (Weekdays 9.30-16.00 (till 20.00 on Wednesdays).

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust who run the help line have a lot of info about Stalking on their website. https://www.suzylamplugh.org/pages/category/national-stalking-helpline

Paladinhttps://www.paladinservice.co.uk/get-support

Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership

CEO Kathryn Hinchliff, Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership said:

Pdap is really pleased to be taking part in this important project to improve the response to stalking in Kirklees. Victims of domestic abuse will often experience stalking both during the relationship and once it has ended and this can have a devastating and lasting impact on victims such as increasing isolation and anxiety, financial problems and in extreme cases resulting in severe harm and homicide. We welcome the opportunity to work with the research team and local agency partners to improve support for victims of stalking and ensure perpetrators are held to account.