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Volume 794: debated on Tuesday 20 November 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to introduce a national register of convicted stalkers.

My Lords, the Government do not have plans to introduce a national register of convicted stalkers. Dr Sarah Wollaston MP’s Stalking Protection Bill would introduce stalking protection orders, which would require those subject to an order to give their name and address to the police.

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for her Answer. I am disappointed that the Government are not taking this on board, although she mentioned the Private Member’s Bill. Is she aware that the Home Affairs Select Committee report of 22 October recommended that a national register of serial stalkers and domestic violence perpetrators be introduced as a matter of urgency—as recommended by Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service— and that individuals placed on the register should be managed through the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements, like registered sex offenders? The committee believes that more integrated strategies on violence against women and girls and on domestic abuse would support a better statutory response to stalking and a more joined-up approach to supporting victims and manging perpetrators’ behaviour. Can the Minister rethink this, as we are now on the eve of White Ribbon Day? It would be a great thing for the Government to do; indeed, they would receive lots of praise for it, and I know such praise would please them this week in particular. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

I thank the noble Baroness for her question. We are all trying to achieve the same thing: ensuring that stalkers and perpetrators of other types of domestic abuse are brought to book, brought before the courts and made to pay for their crimes. As for a VAWG Bill, as I said to the noble Baroness yesterday, the domestic abuse Bill will be a specific Bill for a specific purpose. We should not try to widen it, which is not to say that we are not absolutely committed to the agenda on violence against women and girls. In terms of a national register, I spoke with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and John Clough, whose daughter was murdered; we tried to work through exactly how various databases capture stalkers. Of course, under the new stalking protection orders, names would also be captured on the national police database or the national police computer.

My Lords, although I support the spirit of the proposal, I would challenge it. I wonder whether the Minister agrees with me about how practical it is to keep creating more registers. At the last count, the sex offender register had around 59,000 people on it. They are going on it quicker than they are dying off it. The realistic approach to controlling or monitoring them in society is very limited, partly due to resourcing and partly due to practicality. If there is to be a future in this, the solution will probably be a technological one. I am honestly not sure whether a register will help.

I share the noble Lord’s point. The more registers there are, the more propensity there is for people to fall through the gaps. The crucial thing is that the registers and databases that we have work effectively.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is crucial not just to manage the behaviour of serial stalkers and perpetrators, the majority of serial stalkers being domestic abuse perpetrators, but to engage with them to help them to change their behaviour? If she does, perhaps she could share what plans the Government have to build on some of the emerging practice in this area. In my experience from running the charity SafeLives, fewer than 1% of perpetrators got any intervention to change their behaviour. Without that we will never reduce the scale of the problem.

I commend my noble friend on the work she did with SafeLives. I have seen some of its work at first hand and the emphasis it puts on addressing the problems of perpetrators. The proposed domestic abuse protection order would enable courts to impose positive requirements on abusers to challenge them to change their behaviour, such as requirements to attend a perpetrator programme or an alcohol or drug treatment programme. Through the police transformation fund and the VAWG service transformation fund, we have invested in a number of new approaches to manage perpetrators of domestic abuse. I thank her for all the work she has done to this end.

My Lords, the noble Baroness outlined the process of tracking or monitoring serious stalkers. The onus is then on the victims to report crime, leave their homes, change their behaviour, sometimes change their jobs and disappear themselves. Surely that is an unacceptable state of affairs.

My Lords, a victim would certainly report crime to the police, but it is envisaged that the police would then take up the stalking protection order, because it is unrealistic and unfair that a victim would have to come forward with processing the stalking protection order. The point I have been making is that stalkers are listed on various databases, such as the police national computer, the PND and ViSOR. In addition, there is the domestic violence disclosure scheme, or Clare’s law, which the noble Baroness will know about, as well as MAPPA.

My Lords, Dr Wollaston’s Bill is very welcome indeed, but on the ground the police are dealing with unrelenting demand on stalking and domestic violence, despite the fact that only an estimated one in five victims will ever contact them. Whether we cover stalking in the forthcoming domestic violence Bill or in Dr Wollaston’s Bill, can the Minister assure the House that the agencies tasked with dealing with stalking and domestic violence have the resources, otherwise any register or Bill will not be worth the paper it is written on?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right to point out that it is not just a question of resources; it is a question of training as well. Everyone is aware of stories from past days when police might not have recognised what a victim of stalking or domestic violence looked like. Dedicated resources have gone in to the training of special operatives within the police, and I understand that the College of Policing will soon publish refreshed guidance for the police on investigating stalking and harassment.