Stacey investigates the rise in ‘stalking offences’

Wednesday:Stacey Dooley; (BBC One, 11.05pm)

According to police, there has been a ‘significant increase’ in stalking offences in England and Wales during the pandemic.

National lockdowns have made it much easier for stalkers to target victims in their homes, especially in March 2020 when restrictions on exercise and shopping were at their most stringent.

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Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed more than 80,000 incidents were recorded by forces in 2020 – a large increase on the 27,156 offences the previous year.

Stacey Dooley in police car park

It’s clearly a serious problem, one which Stacey Dooley is determined to investigate.

Across two programmes made for BBC Three, the Strictly Come Dancing winner embeds herself within the specialist Cheshire Police force, as well as a victim support organisation.

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Both groups are dedicated to the prevention of stalking behaviour, as well as to stopping stalkers progressing onto violent and abusive acts – including murder.

Dooley, who was awarded an MBE in 2018 for her services to broadcasting, spends time with the victims of stalking, as well as perpetrators, to try to understand more about the growing problem.

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Despite already hosting a documentary series in the past including Young Sex For Sale In Japan and Canada’s Lost Girls, the levels of stalking still took the presenter by surprise.

She said: “Prior to these films, I perhaps hadn’t taken into account just how truly devastating and life-changing stalking can be.

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“Victims are often forced to change their lives entirely and often likened their normality to simply ‘existing’… These survivors deserve to be heard and prioritised.”

In this first episode, Stacey will explore ex-partner stalking – the most common type of stalking behaviour.

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Twenty five year-old Sabrina’s ex is going to court and she will find out if he is convicted of stalking her.

Plus, the police investigate a pilot accused of stalking his ex-partner who works in cabin crew, but is he heartbroken or is it more sinister?

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Katie’s ex-partner was imprisoned for bombarding her with abusive messages and faking an attack by her, but he is being considered for early release; and Andy has just come out of prison after being convicted of stalking.

Stacey discovers that even when victims think stalking is over, it often isn’t.

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In 2020, new powers were introduced allowing police forces to ban offenders from making contact with victims on social media or coming within a certain distance of their home or workplace.

However, in June, it was revealed that there have been only 294 successful applications for the stalking protection orders.

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In next week’s second part, Stacey explores stranger stalking, investigating how to stop stalking long term and what works better: prison or therapy?

A 22-year-old dancer, is stalked by an obsessed fan who has been arrested three times, convicted once, yet is still contacting her.

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A Fraud Investigator, alleged to be using his skills to cyberstalk his work colleague, is arrested; and a 62-year-old man has been stalking a physiotherapist half his age for the last seven years, but where should he be – prison or hospital?

Jack, who was released from prison, immediately starts threatening his ex-partner.

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Stacey finds out there are no one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to preventing stalking and prison alone can’t do it.

But with police and health professionals working together tackling each case, we’re hopefully more likely to see real long term changes.

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