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MPs urge publication of police warnings data

11/03/15

Forces mis-using police information notices, home affairs select committee says

Police station lamp in the collection of the West Midlands Police MuseumPolice forces have been told to lift the lid on how they deal with allegations of stalking, by publishing monthly data.

Forces are mis-using little-known official warnings - called police information notices (PINs) - without proper investigations, according to the House of Commons home affairs select committee.

A group supporting the victims of harassment has warned the tactic is effectively telling their stalkers: "We're not going to do anything" - and putting victims at greater risk.

The committee has highlighted how data on PINs is not collected centrally and is "owned by the individual police force that issued the notice". It was able to get hold of data for the number of PINs issued in the past year for only three forces; Thames Valley (2,900), Sussex (1,500) and Greater Manchester (900).

The committee's report calls for every force to reveal the number of PINs it has issued on its website "on a monthly basis".

The Home Office should then collate and publish annual data, to "enable chief constables to see how their force compares to other forces".

Data should include "the number of cases in which repeat victimisation was reported following the issuing of a PIN and the number of prosecutions that followed".

Keith Vaz, the committee's Labour chairman, said: "The failure to share information on PINs between police forces strongly undermines chief constables' ability to assess their force's usage."

Jane Harvey, director of Network For Surviving Stalking, told The Independent: "Stalking victims go to the police because they want what's happening to stop. However, if a police officer deals with the situation by issuing a PIN, it may well put the victim at further risk. What's more worrying is that the victim may well be ignorant about this increase in risk.

"Stalkers are effectively being told, 'We're not going to do anything about what you've done so far - you've got away with it'."

The committee also called for "vital" further training for officers to ensure PINs are used only after "good risk assessment and sufficient investigation".

They should not be issued "where an investigation has established evidence of a course of conduct" by a suspected stalker.

And those being issued with PINs should be "given the opportunity to give their account of the situation" before a decision is made.

Vaz said: "There is a clear danger that they may be used inappropriately if they are not done in conjunction with good risk assessment and sufficient investigation."

Pictured: police station lamp by Chris McKenna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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