The Editor's Blog

2 - Living in Fear - The Joint Report of HMIC and HMCPSI on the Investigation, Recording and Prosecution of Harassment and Stalking

The Living in Fear report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) has been widely reported by the media, and so I thought I would take a more in depth look at what has been recommended, particularly with regard to operational policing.


The report found that the concept of Stalking (as opposed to Harassment) was widely misunderstood by both the police and the CPS and as a result often went unrecognised. A group of officers, prosecutors and staff all gave varying interpretations of the term.

The Totality of the Conduct

Incidents were often dealt with in isolation. In some cases, the charges did not reflect the seriousness of the offending.  Officers generally failed to look at a particular course of conduct as a whole, instead focusing on one or two incidents. As a result, the severity, continuity and escalation of the offending were sometimes overlooked.

When offenders were convicted, breaches of Restraining Orders weren’t identified and treated as further offences of Harassment or Stalking.  This may mean that escalating behaviour remains unidentified and risk management strategies are not updated.


Offences were often recorded incorrectly or went unrecorded.  A number of offences of Stalking were found to have been recorded as Harassment. 

Risk Assessment/Victim Care

The Inspectors found that not every case was subject to a DASH type risk assessment, particularly if the matter wasn’t domestic abuse related.  When one was completed, it was haphazard and frequently did not follow a recognised model and/or did not explain adequately how the risks to the victim would be managed.  In over 40% of the cases involving domestic abuse, the specific questions relating to Harassment and Stalking in the DASH risk assessment were not completed.  In 70% of the cases not which didn’t involve domestic abuse, those specific questions were not completed.

The Use of Police Information Notices

It was found that PINs were not appropriate responses in the majority of cases, and that they were sometimes used as informal sanctions and instead of, rather than after, thorough investigations.

In most cases the risks to the victim were not assessed and risk management strategies were not developed or implemented.

They recommended that the use of PINs be discontinued pending replacement by Stalking Protection Orders.

The Investigation

The majority of investigations were carried out by frontline police officers. 

In many cases it was found that an insufficient investigation was undertaken.  Examples included:

Officers appeared not to know that there is a power of entry by warrant for the summary offences of Harassment and Stalking.

At court

It was found that prosecutors did not always protect victims by:

Going Forward

The report also highlighted that:

  1. Investigations need to be thorough and look at the entire course of conduct, however long a period it covers.
  2. The offences disclosed should be properly recorded.  The report also recommended that the Home Office Counting Rules should require the recording of Harassment and Stalking in preference to other offences, particularly crimes of malicious communications, when it is obvious that there has been a course of conduct.
  3. A risk assessment should always be undertaken and a risk management strategy set out.  Further behaviour which amounts to a continuing course of conduct, e.g. breaches of Restraining Orders may mean that the investigation needs to be re-opened and a further risk assessment undertaken.