Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Father calls for stalkers register

Nurse Jane Clough was murdered by her ex-boyfriend

A campaigner whose daughter was murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend has called for a stalkers register where potential victims can check their partner's history.

John Clough, whose daughter Jane was murdered by her violent former lover while he was on bail for rape, claimed that despite new laws stalkers are "getting off with a slap on the wrist" and victims need better protection.

His nurse daughter, 26, was stabbed 71 times as she walked into work by predator Jonathan Vass, who lay in wait for her, and cut her throat at the end of the frenzied attack.

She had ended their relationship and told police that he had raped and beaten her, but he was granted bail while facing nine counts of rape and four of assault and went on to kill.

Mr Clough, from Barrowford, Lancashire, said: " The idea of having a register that shows the previous history of these people has got to be a heads-up for victims. The courts have got powers under new stalking laws to lock people up for five years and we're just not seeing proper use of these laws at all. Stalkers are still getting off with a slap on the wrist. The courts aren't treating stalking with the seriousness it deserves.

"If a stalkers register could be given the same importance as the sex offenders register it would have a significant impact. Stalking is an act of terrorism against the victim. The people who are carrying out these offences statistically are serial perpetrators."

Vass had been reported for violent abuse in a previous relationship, and went on to stalk Jane.

Her father, 53, went on: " Looking back at what he did to Jane and the text messages and constant phone calls and checking up on her, it was all stalker behaviour.

"After they split up, after she reported him, part of the bail conditions were that he couldn't go near her. But it came out in court that he had been following her to work, he had been stalking her from a distance.

"During the relationship he had this fixation of wanting to know where she was. A multitude of text messages every day to check where she was and what she was doing, who she was with. If she was having a meal with friends he would suddenly appear out of nowhere just to confirm that's where she was."

Since Jane's murder - which happened on July 25 2010 - the family has successfully campaigned to get the law changed so that prosecutors can now appeal when suspects are granted bail.

Mr Clough and his wife Penny are both ambassadors for stalking support service Paladin, which has led calls for a stalkers register.

Laura Richards, CEO of Paladin, said: "This is about homicide prevention. Stalking is about fixation and obsession and some of the most serious cases end in rape and murder. We find that many stalkers stalk multiple victims and may escalate their behaviour.

"Stalkers steal lives and take lives. In offending terms they are more akin to sex offenders. We have compared all civil and criminal protective orders available and none of them impose a positive obligation on a perpetrator to attend treatment programmes or notify police when they change their name, move to a different area, travel abroad or form new relationships.

"It is vital their offending history follows them to ensure protection to victims. Many dangerous serial perpetrators continue to remain unsupervised and unmonitored."

The rape charges were ordered to lie on file after Vass's murder conviction, to the fury of Jane's family, and they successfully pressed for a change in the process so that this only happens in the minority of cases of rape linked to murder, after consultation with bereaved relatives.

Mr Clough said: " Jane paid with her life for the right to that hearing. He murdered her to prevent her testifying, and effectively the law had allowed him to get away with it. It still sticks in my throat.

"We would still like to see Vass in court for the rape cases."

The signalling technician believes that judges should face punishment if their decisions have tragic consequences.

"Accountability goes hand in hand with power," he said. "If you have a decision to make that can affect somebody's life you have to show that you are using your best judgment to make that decision.

"If somebody loses their life there should at least be an inquiry or a fact finding exercise to find out what went wrong to protect future victims. It comes down to consequences. If I do something wrong at work and I can't justify it I can be sacked or go to jail.

"With judges there are no consequences for them getting it wrong. If there are no consequences to getting it wrong there's no incentive to get it right."

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