Stalking crimes have trebled in a year – with web predators to blame.

Vicious smear campaigns and threats on social media are driving up cases across the UK.

They rocketed from 10,312 in the year to April 2018 to 30,931 the following year.

One police chief said cyberstalking had soared in lockdown because offenders had time to “sharpen their skills”.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex and a stalking victim herself, said: “Stalkers now have 24 hours a day to obsess over their victims.

“And they have a multitude of social media platforms to target them on. The vast ­majority of domestic homicides we’ve seen involved an element of cyberstalking.

London’s Victims Commissioner Claire Waxman, who was also terrorised by a stalker, branded the figures 'shocking'

“We had a case where a woman was complaining she was being stalked to her ­husband, but it turned out that he was the stalker.”

London’s Victims Commissioner Claire Waxman – who was also terrorised by a stalker – branded the figures “shocking”.

She said: “During lockdown, home was not a safe place for many and the reliance on technology to work, shop and ­socialise exposed stalking victims to further risk and isolation. My message for anyone experiencing stalking is please, don’t suffer in silence and contact the National Stalking Helpline.”

Earlier this month, a doctor who stalked TV explorer Levison Wood - pictured - got 13 months in jail

The mum-of-two was tormented for 12 years by former TV producer Elliot Fogel, 45, who was finally caged in 2015.

Other high-profile victims ­include Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, 50, who was stalked for nearly three decades by Edward Vines, 49.

He was jailed for three years in February for the 12th breach of a restraining order.

And earlier this month, a doctor who stalked TV explorer Levison Wood, 38, got 13 months.

Fiza Jabeen, 36, made the ­former para so fearful for his ­family’s safety that he decided to put his London home on the market.

Edward Vines, an ex-university friend of Newsnight's Emily Maitlis, was jailed for stalking her

Offenders now face up to five years in jail if they breach bans on pestering people – a victory for the Sunday People’s campaign against stalking.

Last year police were told not to give fixed penalty ­notices in stalking and harassment cases following the murder of Shana Grice, 19.

She complained about her stalker ex Michael Lane five times in six months, but was fined for wasting police time.

Lane slit her throat in 2016 in Portslade, East Sussex. He was jailed in 2017 for a minimum of 25 years.

One in five women and a tenth of men in the UK have been stalked, according to campaigners, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Police chief battled five years of hate

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne

Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex Katy Bourne - herself a stalking victim - writes:

"I met my stalker Matthew Taylor on the campaign trail to be PCC for Sussex.

"Taylor, who was standing against me, wrote blog posts calling me a “prostitute”, “Nazi sympathiser” and “paedophile”.

"He sent mass emails to professional bodies and set up a fake email address pretending to be me to message MPs.

Matthew Taylor

"One day, he secretly filmed a speech I gave at an event. He then stood outside the room and filmed me through a window, posting the video on social media.

"That gave me the absolute chills. It really upset me. He had filmed himself ranting and raving in an aggressive manner.

"Then, several others decided I was going to be a target. People started showing up at my office. One filmed me at a charity event in Newhaven.

"I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing staying with this job’ – but, with encouragement from my family, decided to stick with it.

"After five years I eventually succeeded in getting an injunction against him.

"Taylor was later found to be in contempt, and was handed a suspended jail term in 2018.

"What worries me with stalking is that we have seen people being killed. We can’t afford to get this wrong."