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Stalking victims are being left 'at risk' by police, say inspectors.

Byline: Laura Hill Reporter Laura.Hill@trinitymirror.com

LOVED ones of Alice Ruggles have welcomed a report criticising police and prosecutors' response to stalking and harassment.

Alice, 24, was murdered in her Gateshead home by her control freak ex-boyfriend, Lance Corporal Trimaan "Harry" Dhillon.

During Dhillon's trial, jurors heard that Northumbria University graduate Alice had felt "palmed off" after reporting his behaviour to police.

Now, a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found that stalking victims across the country are being left "at risk" by cops and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Alice's flatmate, Christina Campbell, who made the grim discovery of her colleague's body after Dhillon had slit her throat, is working with Alice's family to create a charitable trust to raise awareness of stalking.

She said: "Alice's family and friends welcome this report and hope police forces across the country make the positive changes needed to avoid tragedies Alice's death from happening again."

HMIC inspectors reviewed 112 cases of stalking and harassment from across England and Wales looking at both the police and CPS action and found not one case was dealt with well overall.

They found that incidents of harassment and stalking are often dealt with in isolation by both police and prosecutors.

As a result, victims are being given varying advice, including being told the incidents are not significant, overlooking the severity of the overall situation is overlooked.

Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Wendy Williams, who led the inspection, said that forces need to act on the recommendations in the report immediately to protect victims from further harm.

She said: "We spoke to many victims of harassment and stalking during this inspection and found that these are crimes of persistence and control.

"Repeat patterns of behaviour can have a devastating effect on a person's quality of life.

"Police forces must act quickly to protect victims, including survivors of domestic abuse leaving coercive or controlling relationships. It is not acceptable that victims and their families are left to live in fear, or have to change their lives because of someone else's behaviour.

"While we found some evidence that the police and CPS understand the risks of the repeat behaviours, as well as some examples of positive practice where victims' needs were prioritised, we found worrying failings at every stage, including reporting, investigation and prosecution. Changes need to be made immediately to protect victims from further harm."

Any changes would be too late for Alice, who was murdered in October 2016 after Dhillon discovered she had found happiness with someone else.

Dhillon was jailed for life in April and must serve at least 22 years behind bars.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said Northumbria Police had already been considering scrapping Police Information Notices (PINS) as recommended in the report.

Dhillon had been issued with a PIN the month before he killed Alice but often breached it, leaving chocolates and flowers on her doorstep and calling her repeatedly.

Ms Baird said: "Northumbria Police is committed to improving its response and I have been assured by the Chief Constable that recommendations made in the report will be fed into ongoing work which involves revisiting training and improving standards to provide the service the victims of harassment and stalking deserve."

She added: "The importance of a proper risk assessment should never be overlooked.

"Whilst often the harmful significance of apparently minor conduct is clearer to the victim than to officers, some victims will play down their concerns - they are not the experts.

"Police should take the views of the victim seriously in particular when they regard the behaviour as more serious Alice Ruggles was terrified of the man who finally killed her and had got an official police warning to stop him from contacting her, but ignored it Northumbria Police

We found worrying failings at every stage, including reporting, investigation and prosecutionWendy Williams

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Alice Ruggles

Trimaan "Harry" Dhillon, 26, was jailed for Alice's murder

Alice's mother Sue Hills outside Newcastle Crown Court Claire McKie
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 6, 2017
Words:669
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