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Stalking and harassment to be separate criminal offences

Anna-Belle Woollcott
By Anna-Belle Woollcott Published on 8 March 2012

The Prime Minister David Cameron is due to meet victims of stalking at No.10 as part of International Women's Day.

The government have announced its intention to make stalking a criminal offence separate to that of harassment.

A parliamentary inquiry has called for an immediate introduction to the new law which would separate stalking from the existing harassment law.

In 2010, there were 120,000 reported instances of stalking in the UK only 53,000 of those incidences were recorded as crimes by the police.

Only 2% resulted in imprisonment with a further 10% receiving a community service sentence or fine. No further action was taken against the remaining 86% according to Napo - the probation and family court trade union. The vast majority of victims of stalking are women.

Speaking ahead of his meetings Mr Cameron said stalking is "an abhorrent crime" which "makes life a living hell for the victims... That is why we are explicitly criminalising stalking, to make sure that justice is done, protect the victims and show beyond doubt that stalking is a crime."

In addition to the newly proposed stalking law - due in the House of Lords on Monday - Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have also laid out plans to sign up to the Council of Europe's Convention on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.

Speaking on the subject Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron released a joint statement explaining, "The agreement is not just a piece of paper.

"It's going to lift the standards of protection for women across Europe, give greater support for victims and, crucially, bring many more perpetrators to justice.

"By signing the convention we would ensure that British offenders who commit their crimes abroad would still face justice in our courts. This is what we do in cases of murder and paedophilia.

"We believe rapists and abusive men from the UK who seriously harm women should face the same fate wherever they commit the offence. Our message must be loud and clear - there must be nowhere to hide."

The prime ministers announcement is welcome news for charity Protection Against Stalking. The organisation has been working alongside Napo, in a year long campaign to promote stalking law reforms.

Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, told The Press Association: "It is essential that any new legislation ensures that victims are properly protected and perpetrators receive adequate sentences and attend programmes that combat their obsessive behaviour."

As with the introduction of Clare's Law, new powers to tackle stalking will only be as effective as the police forces who implement them. Presently many victims feel not enough is done to protect them with many told that nothing can be done "unless a crime is committed".

Elizabeth, 28, from Brixton reported her ex for making abusive phone calls and sending threatening text messages. "He said he was going to come round and stab me but when I phoned the police they said there was nothing they could do unless he actually made good on his threats!"

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has also come out in support of the reforms urging the approval of the amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill which would create the new stalking law:

"We need rapid progress and we need a new law which is strong enough; half-hearted measures won't be enough," she said.

by Anna-Belle Woollcott

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