Five times the number of stalking and harassment incidences were recorded by Gloucestershire Police last year than the same period three years earlier statistics show.

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics show that there were 1,499 recorded offences for the year ending June 2018 - compared to 288 offences during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2015.

The ONS Centre for Crime and Justice says the increase is likely due to improvements in recording such crimes, particularly offences of malicious communications - the sending of electronic messages designed to cause anxiety or distress - which are categorised under stalking and harassment offences, rather than reflecting a real rise in the number of cases occurring.

But the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a charity that offers advice on personal safety and stalking, says that the recorded figures represent a tiny percentage of cases and the charity believe offences of harassment (including racially or religiously aggravated harassment), stalking and malicious communications, which all come under the category of stalking and harassment, should be recognised as distinct crimes rather than merged into one figure.

Stalking, which became a criminal offence in November 2012, is a pattern of repeated and persistent unwanted behaviour that creates fear and distress.

In a recent case in the West Midlands lawyer Michelle Hawthorne faced a six-year stalking ordeal after a former flame of a relative.

“She found out where I worked, where my son went to school, where we moved house - within weeks. Police concluded she could only have followed us.

“She befriended my friends and messaged me again on Facebook. She would sit in the pub over the road in the window.

“It just went on and on and on.”

A spokesperson from Gloucestershire Constabulary said that the force was committed to helping victims.

“We are doing a lot of work to help victims of stalking. Information on what to do if you are the victim of stalking or harassment can be found by visiting: or

“In terms of general advice, 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 and 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.”