Cops face mandatory stalking training after woman, 23, murdered by stalker who was reported to police

24 January 2024, 05:59

Gracie Spinks (pictured) was murdered after reporting her stalker Michael Sellers to Derbyshire Police
Gracie Spinks (pictured) was murdered after reporting her stalker Michael Sellers to Derbyshire Police. Picture: Handout
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

The Home Secretary could be legally bound to ensure police officers receive specialist stalking training in a move being pushed for in the House of Lords.

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An amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which is being heard at committee stage on Wednesday, would see officers, healthcare professionals and teachers undergo independent training to better identify and support victims of stalking.

Better training for police has been called for by the family of Gracie Spinks, after she was killed in June 2021 by a stalker who she had reported to officers several months earlier.

Gracie, 23, told Derbyshire Constabulary that her work colleague Michael Sellars had become “obsessed" with her after she rejected him, and had waited for her near to the field where she kept her horse.

Police also did not investigate a bag of weapons belonging to Sellars found by two dog walkers near to the same field where Gracie later died.

Gracie and her father, Richard
Gracie and her father, Richard. Picture: Handout

Derbyshire Police apologised to her family and accepted “significant failings” after a jury at her inquest concluded she was unlawfully killed.

Gracie’s father Richard Spinks told LBC he believes his daughter’s death would have been prevented if officers had been better trained and signposted her to a specialist.

Read More: Gracie Spinks was fatally stabbed in the neck by ex-colleague she reported for stalking

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He said: “If we’d have had an advocate or stalking coordinator dealing with Gracie I think she’d still be alive.

“The police didn’t put the case as high risk. If they’d advised her that it was, because of what Sellars had done, she’d have acted totally differently and we wouldn’t have let her go anywhere on her own.”

Mr Spinks told LBC Gracie had been “absolutely let down” by Derbyshire Constabulary, and said the way her complaint was handled was “disgraceful”.

“If they’d followed the correct procedures, there would have been a different outcome I’m sure”, he said.

Gracie Spinks was murdered after reporting her stalker to Derbyshire Police.
Gracie Spinks was murdered after reporting her stalker to Derbyshire Police. Picture: Handout

The force said it has made significant changes to the ways it investigates stalking reports and safeguards victims since Gracie’s death.

The role of Independent Stalking Advocates is also expected to be recognised in the Victims Bill, with new guidance provided to police and other services on their role.

Gracie’s family have called for Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs) to be available to all police forces across England and Wales - a campaign dubbed Gracie’s Law.

Richard Spinks said the move would “definitely save lives”, because “it will put girls at ease with trust in the police and the powers that be, to know they are going to be listened to and something is going to be done to protect them”.

“Stalking is a major crime, it’s getting worse and it’s happening every day, so it’s time for change”, he said.

The amendment tabled by Lord Russell of Liverpool seeks to improve the way public and criminal justice agencies deal with stalking by ensuring staff have undertaken independent specialist stalking training.

If passed, the Home Secretary would be legally bound to work with specialist stalking services and publish a strategy for the delivery of the training within one year. It would be reviewed and updated every three years thereafter.

A government spokesperson said: “The death of Gracie Spinks was a tragedy and we offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

"Stalking is an appalling crime and we are determined to tackle it.

“We have doubled the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years and introduced a new civil order to protect victims.

“We are also funding stalking charities such as the National Stalking Helpline, and quadrupling funding for victims and witness support services by March 2025.”