My Lords, the Government are committed to exploring how technology such as electronic tagging can be used to protect vulnerable victims. We have recently consulted on this through our public consultation on the future domestic abuse Bill. In addition, the Government have supported the introduction of a new civil stalking protection order, through the Stalking Protection Bill, which will provide police forces with a vital additional tool to protect victims of stalking.
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for that Answer. If this scheme works, it could be very effective. Can the Minister say how the new Stalking Threat Assessment Centre, set up by the Metropolitan Police, which will involve three police forces, three NHS trusts and charities to pilot the new approach to combat stalking and protect victims will be assessed? When and how will they report on the pilot, which I understand will be for a two-year period? Will the Minister bring the report to your Lordships’ House to have a full discussion on its merits, any proposals for rollout, and funding for all police forces?
The new police civil orders will be very important in relation to stalking. As the noble Baroness will know, the police transformation fund is a police-led process, so it is the responsibility of police forces themselves to decide how to evaluate their own projects. The Home Office provides assurance through the grant agreement process to ensure that a rigorous assessment of PTF projects is conducted quarterly and a final evaluation is provided on completion of any project that has been funded. This ensures that wider learning is captured and can be shared across the country by both police forces and the department.
In 2000 Tony Blair proposed that stalkers should have electronic tagging, but 18 years on we are still waiting. There are many victims of stalking, including Tracey Morgan, who suffered over a decade of being harassed and stalked by her former partner, and said:
“When he is released, my sentence starts”.
The key thing about the proposed new tags is that they give proximity alerts to victims, which is an important reassurance. Can the Minister assure us that the results of the consultation will happen speedily, and that the scheme will be introduced to give reassurance to victims of stalking across the country?
I agree with the noble Baroness that stalking can have terrifying consequences for the victim—certainly if the perpetrator has been convicted. Part of electronic monitoring is a rollout programme that will happen as a result of the transformation fund that I just mentioned. How this is taken forward will be up to police forces, but I agree that electronic surveillance, both for the perpetrator and the victim, if it is done on a voluntary basis, is perhaps the way forward.
My Lords, there are a number of schemes available involving tags that seem to be doing quite well, but there is no clear strategy to join them together. It will be important in the future to allow the police live monitoring of these tags. At the moment, they are outsourced and monitored elsewhere, and reports of breaches of the tags are then reported to the police later. I ask the Minister to consider that as part of future strategy as these things develop.
I will clarify what I said to the previous question. I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said: there needs to be much more joined-up thinking about electronic tagging. Indeed, this is what the Government are doing. It may be necessary to have primary legislation to ensure that electronic tagging can take place. What I meant by voluntary is that, at the moment, the Met can ask both the perpetrator and the victim if they wish to be tagged.
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Baroness answered the question from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe. Will it be possible for the police to have real-time monitoring or will it be subcontracted to a third party—when, inevitably, the notification that a stalker is close to somebody will come much later?
The short answer is that I am not clear about outsourcing. It is right to say that, when police forces have the funding available, how they carry out that particular activity will be a matter for them. I will write to the noble Lord to clarify that situation.