It’s obvious enough that there really are stalkers out there. People who obsessively follow and interfere with the lives of others. It’s equally obvious that this should – at some limit at least – be a crime and one that is punished in order to dissuade. It is perhaps less obvious that a major push has been made in recent years concerning this crime. More attention is paid to it. At which point we get these statistics, numbers which we’ve got to try and pull the truth out of:
Eight out of 10 people accused of stalking are not charged despite reported cases to the police having tripled in four years.
Home Office statistics show that of the 10,214 stalking allegations made in England and Wales in the financial year to 2018, only 1,822 resulted in a suspect being charged.
It means just 19.6 per cent of the 9,283 cases where an ‘outcome’ was recorded ended in a charge, a dramatic drop compared to 2015 when 40.6 per cent – 885 – of the 2,181 cases resulted in the alleged suspect being taken to court.
The distinction to be made – as so often with statistics – is between the level of charges and the rate. The number of people being charged has about doubled, the rate at which people are being charged has near halved. That is, we’re going after – or at least people are reporting – ever more marginal cases of the underlying crime, stalking.
We can say this is a good thing in that the scourge is being properly addressed. We could say it’s a bad thing because the law isn’t recognising as a crime something that people are complaining about. That’s entirely a choice. But that fact remains, that we are investigating ever more cases, many more of those investigated don’t meet the standard to be charged as a crime therefore we must be investigating ever more marginal cases.
That is, this isn’t – as no doubt some will argue – that we’re not taking stalking seriously, it’s evidence that we are taking stalking seriously.