04:37, April 24 82 0 theguardian.com

2017-04-24 04:37:02

 

Stalking behaviour identified in 94% of murders, study shows

Stalking behaviour has been identified in nine in 10 murders studied by criminologists as part of research examining a link between the two crimes.

The six-month study by the University of Gloucestershire found stalking was present in 94% of the 358 cases of criminal homicides they looked at. Surveillance activity, including covert watching, was recorded 63% of the time.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, warned that failure to take action on stalking could lead to an escalation in violence and potentially death. It called on courts to recognise stalking as a broader problem and pattern of behaviour.

The chief executive of the trust, Rachel Griffin, said: “Stalking is an obsession which can increase in risk and severity and needs to be addressed under an early intervention model.

“Acting on what are currently considered to be minor, unrelated incidents, but which are driven by a malicious intent which could later put the victim at great risk, could help to save lives.”

The charity is working with three police forces and NHS trusts to pilot intervention programmes that focus on the fixation of the stalker.

“To see these changes being put into action, we need real commitment from criminal justice professionals to ensure that the intention driving the behaviour is examined and assessed for threat, and that these seemingly ‘harmless actions’ are seen for what they are and given the attention they deserve,” Griffin said.

According to the researchers, 85% of homicides occurred in the victim’s home. Dr Jane Monckton Smith, a former police officer turned criminologist, found that in almost every case the killer displayed the obsessive, fixated behaviour associated with stalking.

Stalking could present itself in acts such as rearranging a victim’s garden furniture, sending unwanted gifts, loitering on the pavement outside their house, or even calling social services to maliciously report “poor” parenting.

Monckton Smith and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust have called on criminal justice professionals to review their approach to assessing risk, so the 1.1 million victims of stalking every year can receive greater protection.

“Practically every case we looked at featured examples of the obsessive, fixated behaviour that typifies stalking,” Monckton Smith said.

“Sadly, it is too late for the women and children that formed part of our research so we need to do justice to their memory by acting earlier, when stalkers are demonstrating these behaviours, rather than waiting for the escalation, which can have such profound and tragic results.

“Understanding the motivation behind these behaviours, and the risk that they present, is profoundly important.”