Professor Clive Ruggles and his wife Dr Sue Hills, set up the Alice Ruggles Trust in the wake of their daughter Alice’s tragic murder at the hands of an ex-boyfriend who had relentlessly stalked her when she ended their brief relationship. Stalking is a huge problem in England and Wales: 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 10 men, aged 16-74, have been victims of stalking since the age of 161.
Here Clive tells us what the Ruggles Trust is fighting for and why.
“Alice was kind, clever and beautiful. She had an infectious personality and an incredible sense of humour: she saw the fun side of everything. She loved life, loved her friends and loved her job. She had so much to live for. Tragically, Alice was murdered in Gateshead on 12 October 2016, aged just 24.
On 26 April 2017, Trimaan Dhillon was convicted of Alice’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 22 years. His controlling behaviour during their brief relationship had developed afterwards into a relentless campaign of stalking. Stalking is a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour. Its impact on victims is severe: it can cause high levels of alarm and distress, affect mental and physical health and in high-risk cases, can lead to violence and death.
A study of femicides analysed over a three-year period found that in 94% of cases, the killer displayed the obsessive, fixated behaviours associated with stalking2. The healthcare implications of stalking are severe, with 78% of victims reporting symptoms consistent with PTSD3. Statistics show that 977,000 women (and 526,000 men) were victims of stalking in 2019/201
The Alice Ruggles Trust will mark its 5th anniversary later this year, and was founded in Alice’s memory to prevent what happened to Alice happening to others.
As part of the National Stalking Consortium, we identified the need for public awareness raising as a gap in the support available, especially amongst young people. We also exist to ensure that relevant legislation is effective and adhered to, and to bring about lasting improvements in the management of perpetrators and the protection of victims. The Trust achieves this by providing education and training, through our social media, through campaigns to improve legal measures and by supporting relevant research.
Some of the major successes of the Alice Ruggles Trust have been as a result of intervention through training and education. The organisation has developed a series of lesson plans and resources in partnership with the PSHE Association to be used with Key Stage 4 students. They are freely available to secondary teachers throughout the UK and promote awareness of unhealthy relationship behaviours and stalking in order to help protect young people from the potential risks in such situations, and to support their safety and emotional wellbeing whilst reinforcing that stalking and harassment are both socially unacceptable and illegal. They are also being delivered by police community support teams from at least ten different forces around England and Wales.
A major aim of public awareness raising is to encourage stalking victims to go to the police sooner, but the criminal justice system and other agencies have to react in the right way when they do, and so the need for professional training packages was clear. To date we have personally addressed over 4,000 professionals, including police from more than 20 different forces, CPS lawyers, magistrates and judges, social and healthcare professionals, and domestic abuse caseworkers.
SAfEE is an Ofqual-registered suite of qualifications developed in collaboration with St Mary’s University, Twickenham. They are aimed at professionals working with young people in education environments, who need to be aware of the warning signs and of the crucial initial steps to follow if someone is being subjected to stalking, relationship abuse or coercive control.
On the final day of the UN’s 16 days of activism campaign in December 2021, the Trust released a 3-minute-long, animated video to raise awareness of stalking. As with all our work, our mission is to ensure victims recognise stalking for what it is and that friends and family are able to support them and give good advice. We hope this easily accessible video will go a long way to helping achieve this and encourage everyone to share it as widely as possible.
We are currently campaigning for dedicated funding to guarantee a minimum of two ISACs in every police force area. Stalking advocates (ISACs) support, advise and speak up for stalking victims. The intervention of an ISAC could have made a critical difference in Alice’s case, as they do in so many others, yet the funding available for ISACs is tiny compared with the prevalence of stalking. According to government figures 4, £252,000 was provided during 2020/21 or 2021/22, including additional funds during lockdown. When compared with an estimated 1.5 million victims of stalking, this equates to just 17p each. While more substantial sums have been provided for rape and domestic abuse victims, these do not contain anything earmarked for stalking.”
The fourth Alice Ruggles Trust conference will be held on Thursday, 13 October 2022 in Leicester. This year the focus is on cyberstalking and the keynote speakers will be Rory Innes, Founder and CEO of The Cyber Helpline.; DCC Paul Mills, the NPCC’s lead for stalking and harassment; and Dan Price-Jones, Consultant Forensic Psychologist at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Cheshire Constabulary’s Harm Reduction Unit.
Registration will open soon.
You can find out more about the Alice Ruggles Trust on their website: https://www.alicerugglestrust.org/
1Office for National Statistics Crime Survey for England and Wales (2020) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/stalkingfindingsfromthecrimesurveyforenglandandwales
2 Monckton-Smith, Szymanska and Haile/Suzy Lamplugh Trust (2017) https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/4553/
3Taylor, Barnes and Short/ Suzy Lamplugh Trust (2019). https://www.suzylamplugh.org/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=7d7e3529-cb56-4743-acdf-46a12c1f5c9d
4The government’s response to the Gracie’s Law petition https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/593769