Emily Maitlis, stalking victims and systemic failures

Cross-posted from: Rachel Horman
Originally published: 23.01.18

Emily Maitlis recently spoke of her distress and frustration at the Criminal Justice System response to over 20 years of being stalked and I was asked to discuss the issue on BBC Radio 4’s PM Show.

She was particularly upset at the fact that he had been able to contact her whilst imprisoned for breach of the restraining order and the lack of treatment programmes available for perpetrators of stalking. Edward Vines who she had met at university had breached the restraining order on a number of occasions and each time he was released from custody he went on to breach the order again.Unfortunately this is not unusual and is the nature of stalking. Stalking is characterised by obsession and fixation which is why it is so important to take immediate robust action to attempt to stem the cycle of abuse before it becomes entrenched.

Until we have proven results in relation to an accredited national stalking treatment programme, we owe it to victims to impose lengthy prison sentences to protect the victim and offer them some respite from the onslaught of psychological terrorism that is stalking, something Maitlis described as being like suffering from a chronic illness.

Not all stalkers are the same and many are deterred by a robust prison sentence. When we consider that 50% of domestic stalkers carry out the threats they make and that stalking is present in the majority of domestic violence homicide reviews, it focuses the mind that our priority must be to protect the victim from the stalker and send out a warning to other stalkers.

Any proven perpetrator programme must be available to perpetrators to undertake whilst they are in custody and at present there is a fragmented availability of programmes which are few and far between and only available in the community.  It is imperative that a proven programme is available in prisons and custodial sentences need to be sufficiently long to allow for this work to be undertaken.

Maitlis is right – it is outrageous that victims can be contacted by their perpetrator from prison – unfortunately this is not uncommon and something that I see regularly. In the majority of the cases I have dealt with, where this is reported to the police, nothing happens as there seems to be a view that whilst the stalker is in prison the victim is safe, so why make a fuss ? I spend many hours each day battling with the police / CPS about this type of issue on behalf of clients which shouldn’t need to happen; this view also misses the point and the terrible impact of stalking on victims. Stalkers should be closely monitored and it should come as no surprise to those responsible for them that they attempt this type of behaviour. Victims should be able to feel safe whilst their stalker is in prison – something that will have taken many years of fighting the system to achieve.

 

Interview available on AudioBoom here. 

Rachel Horman : Feminist legal blog by family legal aid lawyer of the year Rachel Horman. Mainly domestic abuse /forced marriage and violence against women. Sometimes ranty but always right…..

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