Victims of harassment and domestic abuse have been urged to reach out to police for help.

The message, from Inspector Claire McGrady, comes after North Wales Police received fewer reports of harassment last year - despite a record number being logged across England and Wales.

Experts said the rise might be driven by more people coming forward, but low charging rates show victims are “being failed by a system that doesn’t deliver”.

The total figure in England and Wales was the highest since comparable records began in 2002-03, with 271,000 cases of harassment reported by all police forces.

Home Office figures show North Wales Police dealt with 4,633 harassment cases in the year to September 2023 – down from 5,397 the year before.

This was equivalent to an average of 13 cases reported every day in North Wales and an almost fivefold increase compared to nine years ago.

Katie Kempen, chief executive at the charity Victim Support said: “This stark rise in reported harassment could be down to a number of factors.

“Perpetrators can now harass people online, something we know is becoming ever more common – meanwhile, better public awareness could be leading to more people coming forward.

“Sadly, the true number of offences will be much higher, given that most victims do not feel able, or want to report to the police.

“Those who do report are being failed by a system that doesn’t deliver.”

Of the harassment cases recorded in North Wales, 172 resulted in a charge or summons, or just 3.7 per cent – about the same as the year before.

Ms Kempen added low charging rates are driven in part by police forces often failing to properly recognise cases of stalking and harassment or mixing up the two distinct crimes.

In the year to September 2023, North Wales Police received 1,875 reports of stalking and 79 of racially or religiously aggravated harassment.

The Leader: Insp Claire McGrady (NWP)Insp Claire McGrady (NWP) (Image: North Wales Police)Saskia Garner, head of policy and campaigns at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “We know that many who have the courage to reach out and report to the police are often not believed or have their charges changed or dropped not reflecting the gravity of the impact on themselves.

“This often then deters them from continuing to pursue the case particularly as our research shows that in many cases communication from the criminal justice system professionals about the case is at best patchy and at worst non-existent.”

Alleged victims said they did not support taking action in 46 per cent of the 10,400 stalking and harassment cases in North Wales.

Ms Kempen said long and re-traumatising investigations can also lead to victims withdrawing.

North Wales Police VAWG Tactical lead, Inspector Claire McGrady, said: “Stalking and harassment, which can affect anyone, has a significant impact on all aspects of a victim’s life.

“The force has invested in a dedicated Stalking Prevention Officer, and we provide Domestic Abuse training to all frontline officers.

“We encourage victims to speak out and seek help. We will take your report seriously and investigate any accusations fully.

“We aim to provide the best possible service to anyone who reports such incidents to us and will fully investigate any accusations.

“We are also dedicated to preventing incidents of this nature through the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, which is open to anyone. 

"I would encourage anyone who suspects their partner may have an abusive past to contact us.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have doubled the maximum penalties for stalking from five to 10 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.

“We have seen a year on year increase in stalking offences charged since 2017 and we are determined for perpetrators to face the full force of the law.”