Stalking reported in Staffordshire and Cheshire under new laws

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A total of 28 allegations of stalking have been reported in Staffordshire since it became a specific criminal offence five months ago, police said.

The figures were revealed on National Stalking Awareness Day which aims to raise awareness about the crime.

The government introduced two offences, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence, on 25 November.

Welcoming the law change, neighbouring Cheshire Police said it had recorded a "small number" of stalking cases.

Det Ch Insp Nigel Wenham, from the Cheshire force, said the cases, which included the "aggravated" aspect of the offence, were recorded as the force dealt with more than 300 cases of harassment over the past 12 months.

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-year sentence.

'Sinister and menacing'

Mr Wenham said the law change had made a difference by giving officers "additional powers" to bring offenders to justice. He said law makers had identified a "gap in the legislation" relating to harassment.

"Stalking is in the mind of the offender in terms of the motivation and the intention and also the victim's perception," he said.

"For example, lower level harassment may be a neighbours-type dispute, whereas stalking is quite sinister and menacing in the way that offenders commit the activity towards the victim."

The law, introduced for England and Wales did not define stalking, but has guidelines about the type of behaviour it can involve, Mr Wenham said.

This could include following somebody or making repeated telephone calls.

Campaigners had long claimed dealing with stalking under existing harassment laws was inadequate.

In Scotland stalking was made an offence in 2010.

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