Campaigning lawyer says victim of Wigan stalker has been 'let down by the criminal justice system'

A crusading lawyer says that a doctor whose car was bugged by a Wigan stalker has been “let down by the criminal justice system.”
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Rachel Horman-Brown, who specialises in stalking cases and also chairs a national charity for victims, represented Marie Gerval whose car was fitted with an electronic tracking device by handyman Kelvin James.

The harassment has had a serious impact on the hospital medic’s health, causing her to lose 80 per cent of her hair through stress-related alopecia, bringing on post-traumatic stress disorder and forcing her to miss months of work.

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Ms Horman-Brown says that given this gravuity of physical and mental impact, the authorities should unquestionably have charged James under section 4a of the Protection from Harassment Act which takes into account victims’ serious distress and carries much heavier penalties.

Rachel Horman-BrownRachel Horman-Brown
Rachel Horman-Brown

As it was James was only charged under Section 2a and, as a result, was ordered by Bolton magistrates to complete 12 days’ rehabilitation activities, obey an 18-month restraining order and be electronically-tagged for 12 weeks while staying at home during the night.

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In fact both client and lawyer say that Lancashire Constabulary were going to let off the defendant with a verbal warning until they kicked up a fuss with senior police officers.

They say that officers’ file to the CPS should have automatically contained the victim impact evidence, but a statement gathering such evidence was only taken months after the bare bones of the case had been passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service and James had already been charged with the lesser offence.

Kelvin JamesKelvin James
Kelvin James
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The details of the crime’s effects on Dr Gerval’s health were given in mitigation but justices were restricted in what sentence they could impose because of the charge to which he had admitted.

Ms Horman-Brown said: “I have come across many cases of stalking and what the law considers to be section 2a or section 4a offences, and I have rarely seen a clearer cut one for the more serious charge than Marie’s.

"The physical effects are there for all to see. It makes no sense that the case should have been treated as a less serious stalking charge than a 4a which carries a heavier sentence.

"If I had not been involved I don’t think he would ever have been charged.”

Kelvin James used a tracking device to monitor Dr Gerval's movementsKelvin James used a tracking device to monitor Dr Gerval's movements
Kelvin James used a tracking device to monitor Dr Gerval's movements
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The hearing was told Dr Gerval hired James to carry out work on her parents’ house in Lancashire and things were fine.

She and James had had a few dates in the January of 2021 which came to nothing but towards the end of the year the stalking began.

Last November he texted to ask if he could use one of her cars to complete a painting job as his van had broken down.

She agreed, but later learnt there was nothing wrong with the vehicle and it was during this time that James had taken her car to a garage and had a tracker fitted without her knowledge or consent.

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In the following weeks she attended various social events only to receive texts from James asking what she was doing, where she was and who she was with.

On November 17 she was stopped and breathalysed by police following a pub visit. After testing negative, she was informed that officers had received an anonymous tip-off saying that she and a friend had been rowdy in a Parbold pub.

The next day James insisted on meeting Dr Gerval and told her he had driven past another venue that she had visited two days earlier.

She said: “I then became concerned at the extent of Mr James’s desire to follow and track my movements and became very suspicious, given the events of the previous night, that he was pursuing me.

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“I arranged to take her car to be checked out and the garage discovered a tracking device on it.”

The police were then called and Dr Gerval obtained a non-molestation order.

The court heard that when confronted with the tracker evidence James freely told officers he was responsible, that he had done it without her permission or knowledge and had downloaded an app onto his mobile so he could monitor her location and movements.

He stated he had done it for “his own peace of mind.”

After the hearing Dr Gerval said: “As well as the upset and disruption of daily life at home, his actions have cost me financially, professionally, physically, mentally and emotionally.

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"l am hospital doctor working in the speciality of obstetrics and gynaecology, and since this occurred have not been able to work in the profession I enjoy greatly and which gives me a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction in being able to help and serve others.

"The shock of this experience has also had a severe impact upon me physically.”

She also had criticism for the police, adding: “From the start, the police did not seem interested in the case, wanted to play it down and write it off as soon as possible.

"It was only after I went to see a police inspector at Chorley and brought a solicitor in that they began to take things seriously.

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"The solicitor advised me in May to make a second statement showing the impact the whole ordeal had had on me but they only took it in July, by which time James had already been charged.

"I sent the details directly to the CPS so it was used in mitigation but I don’t think it had the same impact as it would have if he had been charged with Section 4a stalking.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We know the devastating impact this crime has on victims in damaging their feelings of safety and self-confidence. We work closely with complainants, as well as other partner agencies and charities to protect victims, review cases and investigate incidents thoroughly.

“We have provided and continue to provide support to the victim, working closely in relation to a number of matters raised during the course of the investigation.

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“We have rolled out refresher training to officers across the force in this area and are always striving to improve the service we offer to victims and how we investigate their complaints.

“In addition, each policing division has a dedicated stalking and harassment point of contact who is a specialist detective who reviews some cases and is available for advice if officers require it.

“We would urge anyone who is being affected by stalking to speak to a local officer, contact us on 101 or ring the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300. All reports will be taken seriously and dealt with robustly.”

And a spokesperson for the CPS added: “Following receipt of a file of evidence from Lancashire police, the case was subject to a full review by a Senior Crown Prosecutor in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, who authorised that the defendant was charged with an offence of stalking.

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“We robustly prosecuted the case and presented the victim impact statement and medical evidence to the court at the sentence hearing that took place on the 01 November 2022.

“The CPS stakes a firm stance against all allegations of stalking and domestic abuse and recognises the substantial impact such offending has on victims.”