MPs call for national register of serial stalkers and domestic abusers

Serial stalkers and domestic abusers should be placed on a new national register and monitored under the same arrangements as rapists and paedophiles, according to a Commons report.

MPs backed calls for a strengthened regime to ensure greater protection for victims who live in fear of their tormentors.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee recommended that a national register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators be introduced “as a matter of urgency”.

Under the proposals, individuals on the register would be managed through multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa).

This is the system used by police, probation and prison services to manage the risks posed by violent and sexual offenders living in the community.

The report said: “Stalking is a serious crime which can have a devastating impact on the lives of victims.

“Victims of stalking often endure years of abuse before the crime is taken seriously.

“We were told that existing criminal justice responses were often ineffective in stopping perpetrators.”

Calls for a register have been led by Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, which told the committee in a written submission: “A radical cultural shift is needed as current police practice is dire and not working.

“The register will save lives and money.”

In another recommendation, the Committee urged the Government to consult on introducing paid “domestic abuse leave” to help victims keep their jobs and maintain economic independence while escaping abuse.

Noting that legislation to introduce such a measure was recently passed in New Zealand, the report said: “We believe this has the potential to save lives.”

The findings were set out in a wide-ranging assessment of the Government’s strategy for tackling domestic abuse.

Plans unveiled by ministers earlier this year include new orders to place restrictions such as electronic tagging on abusers, a new statutory definition of domestic abuse including a reference to “economic” abuse, and tougher sentences for crimes that affect children.

The Committee’s report flagged up a “desperate shortage” of refuge accommodation and raised concerns that welfare reform policies are making it more difficult for victims to leave their abusers.

It also said that while evidence indicates the police response to victims of domestic abuse is improving, there continue to be instances where it is “inadequate”.

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Committee, said: “Domestic abuse is one of the most dangerous and the most common crimes there is.

“The Government is rightly proposing new legislation and a new strategy, but our inquiry found much stronger action is needed across the board.”

An estimated 1.9 million adults experienced domestic abuse in the previous 12 months, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2017.

A Government spokesman said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families. We are determined to transform our response so we welcome the Committee’s support for the Government’s planned Domestic Abuse Bill.

“The landmark bill will create stronger powers to protect and support victims and survivors, pursue perpetrators and ensure agencies are able to respond effectively. It is right that the bill, and the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, focus solely on supporting the near two million victims and working towards tackling this crime.

“Specialist Jobcentre staff work tirelessly to ensure people fleeing domestic abuse get the help they need, including enabling urgent payments and transferring someone’s claim to a different Jobcentre. Split payments are available but cannot be the only solution to what is a criminal act.

“This Government has launched a £18.8 million fund this summer to help survivors rebuild their lives. Since 2016, we have also spent £20 million to creating over 2,200 bed spaces in refuges, supporting more than 19,000 victims. Earlier this year, we confirmed that refuge places will continue to be part-funded through housing benefit and we are committed to delivering a sustainable funding model to support these services across the country.”

The Government said improving the management of serial domestic abuse perpetrators and stalkers is high on its agenda, adding that it has been working to examine the current framework in detail and acknowledges there is scope to improve information sharing, risk assessment and disclosure.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for domestic abuse Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said inspections on the police response to domestic abuse have acknowledged “substantial improvements in leadership, training, initial response, safeguarding of victims and investigations”, adding that successful prosecutions, particularly for coercive and controlling behaviour, have increased substantially.

She said: “Crime is rising and so is the demand on our service but our commitment to safeguarding victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice is evident.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “The domestic abuse bill is a golden opportunity to transform the lives of survivors and tackle the root causes of domestic abuse once and for all.

“To achieve this, the bill must reflect the reality of survivors’ experiences.”