Stalking victims will be given replacement mobiles
Wednesday 10th April 2019 @ 10:58 by Lauren Entwistle
News

By James Illingworth, local democracy reporter.

Victims of stalking will be given replacement mobiles while theirs are analysed by police as part of a new scheme funded by the Greater Manchester mayor.

The move, announced to coincide with a national awareness week, will help reduce vulnerability at a ‘terrible time’, city region bosses said.

It means victims will be able to contact officers, friends and family while their case is being investigated.

Deputy mayor Beverley Hughes said: “Having to hand your phone over for examination is a necessary but hugely disarming process for victims.

“It helps secure prosecutions and bring offenders to justice, but can also leave (victims) feeling bereft and vulnerable at a terrible time in their lives.

“Unfortunately the criminal justice system doesn’t always have victims at its heart, but through such a simple scheme as this, we can ensure perpetrators are brought to justice without causing further distress or risk of harm to the victims involved.”

The scheme is influenced by the case of Katrina O’Hara.

She was murdered in Dorset by her ex-partner, having been left without means of calling for help when her phone was taken away to be examined for evidence, a police watchdog said.

The replacement phone initiative will be assessed later this month to see if it can be rolled out on a long term basis.

New legislation was passed last month handing Greater Manchester Police additional powers to help victims of stalking and harassment.

It includes the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders, which carry punishments for any breaches of up to five years in prison.

And two victims’ services co-ordinators, also funded by the mayor’s office, have been appointed to support GMP’s lead on stalking, Det Supt Estelle Mathieson.

“Everyone has the right to live their life without fear and harassment,” Det Supt Mathieson said.

“Stalking can have a devastating effect on a victim and their loved ones, and we will continue to work hard to bring anyone found responsible to justice.

“This scheme ensures we can increase the chances of prosecutions by securing vital evidence, while ensuring that victims feel protected and decreasing vulnerability.”

This week, April 8 to 14, marks National Stalking Awareness Week.

Deputy mayor Hughes, who is the city region’s lead for policing, crime, criminal justice and fire, added: “Stalking affects 1.1 million people in the UK and one in four stalkers target the victim’s children. The impact of stalking on someone’s life is huge and the emotional damage long-lasting.”