Victims of harassment and stalking in Dyfed-Powys “are not feeling supported”, a new report has found, which has left some “feeling more at risk” as numbers for both crimes balloon in the past four years.
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn launched a “deep-dive review” earlier this year to find out ‘is Dyfed-Powys Police effectively managing perpetrators of stalking and harassment?’
The report into the review, released last week, found that while “some improvements” have been made within the force, victims’ feedback calls for police to “take reports of stalking and harassment seriously from the outset”.
While stalking and harassment crimes rose throughout Wales and England in the past five years, figures show that the rise was more pronounced in Dyfed-Powys, which includes Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
Figures in the report show that from 2018 to 2022 harassment offences soared from 1,979 to 5,269.
Stalking offences rose by more than 1,000 over the same period, rising to 1,286 in 2022 from just 133 in 2018.
Harassment offences in 2018
Harassment offences in 2022
The report said: “The data shows that stalking and harassment crimes across the Dyfed-Powys area rose by 51.05 per cent for the 12 months to March 2022 compared to the same period the previous year.
“This increase is considered to be both due to changes to Home Office recording practices, as well as the Chief Constable setting a priority to eliminate domestic abuse, stalking and harassment in April 2022, resulting in a targeted focus of these crimes.”
Figures show that in 2021/22, in more than half of stalking and harassment cases the victims “did not support further action”.
“One of the emerging issues from the victims’ and survivors’ feedback is the need for officers to take reports of stalking and harassment seriously from the outset,” the report said.
The figures also show that 16.2 per cent of cases were closed with “evidential difficulties” where the victim supported police action.
“This may have negative implications for the force,” the report said, “as a victim of stalking and harassment may not report further incidents to the police.”
“They may lose trust in the police investigation.
“This, in turn, may impact on victims’ safety and escalation of offending could be missed.”
Stalking offences in 2018
Stalking offences in 2022
The report said it is “important that victims feel confident in reporting repeat behaviour and offences to the police” with a decrease in repeat offending being recorded in the three months to February 2023.
“This could be viewed as positive,” the report said. “Repeat victimisation rates may be falling due to successful investigations, interventions and perpetrator management.
“Alternatively, repeat victimisation rates could have decreased because repeat victims are not reporting repeat offences.
“This could be due to personal circumstances and decisions, a lack of confidence in the police, or an unsuccessful investigation/outcome for the first instance they reported.”
In the review by the commissioner’s office, staff looked at 29 cases classed as stalking and harassment.
The cases considered were recorded by Dyfed-Powys Police between August and December 2022.
Increase in stalking and harassment crimes in the year to March 2022
In one stalking case, the report said, a superintendent requested that the investigating officer expedite efforts to arrest “given suspect’s apparent disregard for the non-molestation order which is in place, coupled with the concerns of the victim and wider safeguarding considerations”.
Despite the request, the offender was not arrested until four days later, the report found.
“The delay between the superintendent’s request and arrest is concerning given the gravitas placed on this arrest by the superintendent,” the report added.
“Good practice was identified in a further case of stalking where the breach of a restraining order was investigated promptly.”
In another stalking case, the review found “evidence that the stalking report had been taken very seriously despite the victim not wishing to pursue the matter”.
The review of cases “identified a consistent use of multi-agency referral forms to ensure victim safeguarding” and “evidence of a consistent and reassuring approach to the provision of safeguarding advice to victims”.
The review found, however, that the “majority of survey respondents registered dissatisfaction with updates received” about their case.
I have felt more at risk due to the lack of action taken by police despite them having the information of [the offender’s] behaviours at their disposal.
A respondent to the victim engagement forum
A crime victim satisfaction survey held between February 2021 and March 2023 found that 39.7 per cent of stalking and harassment victims were “dissatisfied” with the “whole experience”, with that number rising to 41.4 per cent for “action taken”.
Victims who responded to a victim engagement forum “spoke of not being taken seriously, delays in a response, investigation delays, and not being provided with the relevant information”, the report added.
“There appears to be a potential discrepancy in how victims feel and what is noted in police records in relation to updates,” the report said.
“It is recognised that both the victim feedback and dip sampling may not represent the situation in all cases.
“The findings do, however, raise the question whether the expectations of the police and victims may vary in terms of what is meant by ‘contact’ and ‘being kept informed’.”
Twelve of the 13 respondents to the engagement forum said that police action against the offender “did not make them feel safer”, with some reporting “ongoing issues due to no steps being taken by the police”.
“I have felt more at risk due to the lack of action taken by police despite them having the information of his behaviours at their disposal,” one respondent said.
All 12 of the victims “felt that the force could have done something differently to improve their feelings of safety, such as taking the complaint seriously, providing better support and controlling the perpetrators’ behaviour through restrictions,” the report added.
“The issue raised most frequently in direct engagement with victims was the ineffectiveness of the operation of civil orders such as non-molestation orders, restraining orders and stalking protection orders,” the report said.
“Victims described experiencing multiple breaches to civil orders with no adequate enforcement response, leaving them feeling unprotected.”
respondents to an engagement forum said police action against the offender “did not make them feel safer”
The commissioner’s report concluded that “it appears victims are not feeling supported, but dip sampling suggests victims are being safeguarded” but “more needs to be done to consistently and robustly deter all perpetrators of stalking and harassment”.
“There are examples of increasing consideration and use of civil orders and prosecutions, however there is evidence of a disconnect between the victim, police and courts’ understanding of the response to breaches and repeat offending,” the report said.
The report added that “it is recognised that the policing of stalking and harassment is an area in which Dyfed-Powys Police has already taken steps towards improvement” and “has clearly invested significant time and resources into embedding awareness of stalking and harassment through many training opportunities for frontline personnel”.
Dyfed-Powys Police, in response to the report, said that “it acknowledges the content of the report, especially the victim feedback”.
“It’s pleasing to see the report acknowledges the work which is underway in force, and moving forward the recommendations will be integrated with our force plans, as we strive improve our response,” the force said.