- Authorities in Gloucestershire now have a more joined-up approach to tackling stalking, says Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl.
- An Independent Stalking Advocacy Case Worker (ISAC) is funded through the Hollie Gazzard Trust to identify people who are most at risk.
- A ‘stalking clinic’ includes representatives from the Police, Probation Service, CPS, Social Care, Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS), 2gether trust to identify who are most vulnerable and examine specific cases.
- “We have looked at what other forces are doing and whilst one size doesn’t fit all, it’s definitely an area where we can say Gloucestershire is ahead of the game”, said Det Chief Insp Richard Ocone.
It was an unspeakably callous crime that left an indelible mark on a city and helped to expose the underlying menace of stalking.
Hollie Gazzard, 20, was killed by her ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin at the beauty salon where she worked in Gloucester days after ending their relationship.
Maslin, 22, admitted repeatedly knifing Hollie at Fringe Benefits and La Bella beauty salon in February 2014 and was jailed for life.
It was a tragedy that exposed the reality of stalking, changing the perhaps mistaken perception of it as a relatively harmless inconvenience and laying bare its more sinister nature. Belatedly, and with the benefit of experience, measures are now in hand to help and support victims and contain their assailants.
Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said, “Hollie’s murder identified, in the worst possible fashion, the need for increased awareness of stalking among professionals and the public. This is recognised in my Police and Crime Plan’s Safer Days and Nights priority.
“My office has worked closely with the Hollie Gazzard Trust and the police to introduce measures like the stalking clinic and Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworker and plans are also in place to deliver further specialised training”.
As a result, the authorities in Gloucestershire now have a more joined-up approach to tackling the issue.
An Independent Stalking Advocacy Case Worker (ISAC) was recruited and funded through the Hollie Gazzard Trust to identify people who are most at risk. The ISAC is a member of a ‘stalking clinic’ which also includes representatives from the Police, Probation Service, CPS, Social Care, Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS), 2gether trust and other invited panel members on a case specific basis.
It is a multi-agency approach that not only recognises those most at risk, but also identifies perpetrators most likely to pose a threat of violence. Originally launched as a six month pilot, the trial period was extended to a year to enable three university students to evaluate its worth. The clinic will be assessed on what difference it has made to those most at risk; the service it provides to victims and how successful it has been in raising awareness amongst the police.
Det Chief Insp Richard Ocone said, “Stalking needs to be treated with the seriousness that it deserves and we need to continue to raise awareness of what constitutes stalking, how to intervene early, protect victims better and address the behaviour of perpetrators.
“The clinic is a multi-agency problem solving forum where both the victim and perpetrator can be considered. Protecting the victim is key as is dealing effectively with the risk posed by the perpetrator, this is a truly 360 degree clinic.
“We have looked at what other forces are doing and whilst one size doesn’t fit all, it’s definitely an area where we can say Gloucestershire is ahead of the game”.
The Hollie Gazzard Trust was created in the aftermath of Hollie’s murder by her parents and sister. Its primary aim is to reduce domestic violence through education and promoting healthy relationships to schools and colleges.
Hollie’s father Nick, its chairman and front man said, “Stalking is about fixation and obsession and is one of the most frequently experienced forms of abuse.
“It is a serious crime which can destroy the lives of victims. No-one should be afraid or embarrassed to come forward if they feel they are being harassed or stalked”.
Last year, Gloucestershire Constabulary investigated 47 cases of stalking. Seven of the complainants feared becoming the victims of a violent attack and 22 involved serious alarm or distress. The numbers did not include other, higher crime classifications where stalking was also investigated.
Assessing any increase in stalking accurately is problematic as experts believe it is still either under reported or under recorded, though attempts have been made to address this. Where an attack causing injury or actual bodily harm (ABH) would previously have been recorded as assault, now, if there is evidence of fixated behaviour, it will be recorded as ABH and stalking.
But Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategic Co-ordinator Sophie Jarrett says there are still steps you can take to increase your safety.
“You should always contact the police if you feel you are being stalked and in any immediate danger. To support your report to the police, you should aim to keep a diary of what is happening and collect evidence such as keeping any messages or gifts you receive.
"To increase your own safety, try to vary your daily routine when travelling to or from work, home other places you go to regularly.
“Check security at home. You might like to consider a camera, alarm or changing locks.
"If you’re being followed in a car, drive to an area where there is lots of CCTV.
“Always know where the nearest safe location is and tell people at home and work what is happening”.