New law to tackle stalking introduced

 
Lorna Smith Lorna Smith was killed on 2 February last year

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Stalking has become a specific criminal offence in England and Wales in a move to improve victims' safety.

The government has introduced two offences, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence.

Campaigners had long claimed dealing with stalking under existing harassment laws was inadequate. In Scotland stalking was made an offence in 2010.

A parliamentary inquiry earlier this year found that about 120,000 victims, mostly women, were stalked every year.

However only 53,000 incidents are recorded as crimes by police - and only one in 50 of these reports leads to an offender being jailed.

'Abhorrent crime'

The inquiry called for a new offence to be introduced at once, saying harassment and intimidation could often turn into murder.

After meeting victims and campaigners at Downing Street earlier this year, the prime minister described stalking as "an abhorrent crime" which "makes life a living hell for the victims".

The new law of stalking carries a maximum six-month sentence and stalking involving a fear of violence or serious distress carries a maximum five years in prison.

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the government hoped that adding specific offences of stalking would provide greater clarity around the offence for the police and others looking to improve the safety of victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

The calls for reform came after a series of cases involving stalkers who went on to kill, including Clifford Mills, 49, who stalked his ex-girlfriend Lorna Smith on Facebook before stabbing her to death at his flat in Brixton, south London, in February last year.

He was jailed in February for life, with a minimum term of 21 years, after being found guilty of murder.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    (Cont) this is also excellent news for women, who can now deal with a violent ex-partner stalking her BEFORE she becomes another victim of violence or murder because the police couldn't deal with him because he 'hasn't actually done anything'. And yes it will protect men as well from female stalkers which sadly do exist.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 15.

    My personal experience of the stalker and by far the most frightening thing was he simply would not give up. He never made any threats to harm me however no matter how many times or ways I made it clear I wasn't interested he persisted, calling me at work when he discovered I'd moved trying to find me via a friend on the pretence he'd lost my number thankfully I'd clued her in.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 14.

    Lets put them all in prison! I'm sure that that will solve all our problems.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    This article was obviously written by a woman! What is the definition of “Stalking”? Who decides when there is a “fear of violence”? I wonder how long before embittered wives are using this legislation to further torture their ex-partners.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 12.

    There is no doubt that being a stalking victum is very unpleasant indeed, however, I'm not sure that prison is the appropriate punishment in most cases.

    One would have thought that some counselling and mental health care would be much more effective. Our obsession in this country of putting people in prison isn't always appropriate.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 11.

    There already is an offence for stalking under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 so not sure why we need yet another one (other than the Govt wanting to earn brownie points). Problem is not lack of legislation but lack of enforcement by police, CPS and courts who are all weak on this issue.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 10.

    Could the Harassment Act not have been beefed up instead of another two offences being made law ? I'm not belittling stalking but one act with tougher sentencing would have been acceptable.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 9.

    Great! The lawyers will get a huge boost in their income and I'll have to remember to use different bus stops throughout the week as waiting at the same one every morning might get me interrogated by the police. The existing harassment laws were adequate but not used properly by the police. This new law is overkill.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 8.

    Cut this "mostly" women rubbish, BBC. What's the ratio, 60:40? Please STOP framing everything as a problem for women that is caused by men. I know it's tough to discard the sexist blinkers you have worn for the last 20-odd years, but please give it a go. :-/

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    "The government has introduced two offences, stalking & stalking involving a fear of violence."

    Surely one goes hand in hand with the other.
    And will this law be confined to individuals ?
    What about people who are stalked by private detectives corporations & the state ?
    No doubt they will be exempted like most questionable things in this country.
    Counterfeiting = jail.
    QE = state inflation & OK.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 6.

    The state may or may not 'stalk people', but if it does it is not the same as being stalked by an individual who violates your right to privacy, pollutes your relationships, overshadows your hopes for the future, and may also wish to cause you eventual physical harm. Excellent news that the govmt has realised that stalking does not always include threat of violence but is still stalking.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 5.

    This is good news - but the question is - will the police take complaints seriously enough to investigate? - meaning, not now - but in two or three years time when the novelty has worn off and scarce resources means that they have other priorities? There are lots of good laws around but getting the police to take action can be difficult - unless the victim is a policeman's daughter, that is.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 4.

    Let's hope it's acted on sooner rather than later.

  • rate this
    +61

    Comment number 3.

    Stalking is of course a horrible crime for the victim but I wonder why it is a crime for people to stalk people but the state is increasing its own (and large corporations') rights to stalk people.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 2.

    I was stalked for years by a vicious individual who always managed to stay one side of the law - vandalising my car when no-one was around to prove it; intimidating behaviour; threats. If only this law had been around the it would have saved me years of distress

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 1.

    And about time too, this is a vicious crime that often is overlooked.

 

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