***STOP PRESS*** On April 22, the Lords passed a motion proposing revised amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill (Motion G1) that would, after all, introduce statutory measures for dealing with serial abusers and stalkers. This motion will now be considered by the Commons.
A unique opportunity has been lost to provide better statutory protection for victims of some of the most dangerous domestic abusers and stalkers.
On March 15, 2021, Baroness Jan Royall proposed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which called for serial perpetrators of domestic abuse and serial stalkers to be included on the Violent and Sex Offenders’ Register (VISOR) and to be supervised, monitored and managed under the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA). The amendment (Amendment 73) was passed by 327 votes to 232 in the House of Lords with strong cross-party support.
On April 15 the Bill returned to the House of Commons. Although supported by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the amendment (now Amendment 42) was not supported by the government and was defeated by 351 votes to 226. Although Alice’s case was mentioned in the debate, along with many others including Jane Clough, Zoe Dronfield, Hollie Gazzard and Shana Grice, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Victoria Atkins, argued that the relevant mechanisms already exist to protect victims against serious and serial offenders.
Why did we need Amendment 42?
Amendment 42 would have provided a statutory duty to deal with serial offenders rather than merely placing a reliance upon best practice, which up to now has been patchy at best. It would have required the government to develop, within a year, a comprehensive perpetrator strategy for domestic abusers and stalkers.
Before he met Alice, Trimaan Dhillon had received a Restraining Order following an assault towards an ex-girlfriend. During the investigation of Alice’s murder, other former partners came forward to reveal a clear previous history of stalking and coercive control. If the stalking following her break-up had been recognised and crimed as such, and the measures proposed in Amendment 42 had been in place, then a statutory referral to MAPPA would have triggered appropriate monitoring and intervention to ensure the best possible risk management.
In place of statutory measures, the government’s replacement Amendment 42A promises a "holistic domestic abuse strategy" backed up by a new system, MAPPS, that will replace MAPPA in the future and provide better opportunities for the police and other agencies to spot high-risk offenders and share information.
The latter is, of course, good: we need our databases to flag *all* previous behaviours, to have them recognised for the serious crimes they are, and to make sure the police and other agencies can easily “join the dots” if the person reoffends. But guidance is not a statutury framework: it continues to rely on best practice.
It is hard not to feel let down by this outcome but we will keep campaigning and, where possible, working with government to bring about the changes we need to see in order to prevent what happened to Alice—and to Jane, Zoe, Hollie, Shana and so many others—continuing to happen in the future.
We also need more...
For measures like this to work, society also needs educating—so that victims approach the police far sooner than most currently do—and a criminal justice system that reacts in the right way when this happens. The Alice Ruggles Trust is focused on helping our younger generation to identify stalking and seek support for themselves or others. That is why we developed the PSHE Relationship Safety resource for 14- to 16-year-olds that is being delivered into schools across the country, why we are offering training to those who work with young people through our SAfEE project, and why we are working with Girlguiding and other youth organisations to raise awareness of the seriousness of stalking.
The other side of the coin is that we need comprehensive training for all criminal justice professionals, which is why our Trust also provides professional development and training for police, CPS and judiciary as well as social and healthcare professionals.
Ways to help!
There are also many ways in which you can help the Alice Ruggles Trust in our work. You could explore our website and spread the word about what you’ve learned and what we are doing. If you are a young person yourself you could influence what we do directly by joining our youth ambassadors (please contact us if you are interested). If you are a professional working with young people you could consider taking one of our SAfEE courses so that you are qualified to recognise stalking and offer the best advice. Or, whoever you are, you could help us raise funds by entering our 24 challenge.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
Since 2017, the Alice Ruggles Trust has supported Paladin’s campaign to introduce a register that would enable police to pro-actively identify, track, monitor and manage stalkers. Broadly’s UnFollowMe campaign featured a video about Alice which has been seen by more than a million young people. Please consider signing Paladin’s petition.