Stalking must be a crime, Labour's Yvette Cooper says

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: "The law is not strong enough as it stands"

Labour says it would tighten up the law on stalking and do more to prevent it escalating into serious violence.

Stalking is not a specific offence in England and Wales, with legislation referring only to harassment.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper says that should be corrected, with all police forces required to carry out detailed risk assessments of stalkers to spot those likely to turn violent.

Scotland introduced a separate offence of stalking last year.

In England and Wales, an all-party group of MPs and peers is currently investigating the issues around stalking.

It is looking to revise and strengthen the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the law currently used to prosecute stalkers in England and Wales, and is due to report in early 2012.

After the specific offence of stalking was introduced in Scotland, more than 130 people were charged in the first six months of its existence.

VICTIM'S STORY - DAVID

I was stalked by an ex-partner.

The police would not and could not arrest this individual even when my property was damaged and she was caught lying to them.

There were hundreds of phone calls per day, email accounts hacked with suicide notes sent to friends, family and colleagues and criminal damage including the writing off of my car.

When they informally questioned her, there were many blatant lies that the officer recognised but he could not arrest her as there was no physical evidence.

I would welcome any change to the law because I do not feel the police understand it fully.

As I understood it, if you had three texts or recorded calls that would prove stalking - I had that but it was not enough to prosecute.

In a speech to the Labour Party women's conference in Liverpool on Saturday, Ms Cooper will say she believes crime rates can be brought down further by "addressing areas where the criminal justice system is not protecting people".

"One such area is stalking and we will take action to clarify the law, the powers and the criminality of this intimidating act and prevent it from leading to more serious crimes," she will say.

"There have been too many tragic cases of women and men being stalked, and a lack of clarity in the law has allowed this to go on for too long and led to heinous crimes - and this must end."

As well as a stalking law, Ms Cooper will commit to implementing, nationwide, a system of risk assessment - accredited by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2009 - which tries to identify the victims and perpetrators most in need of additional support.

According to the 2010-11 British Crime Survey, 18.1% of women have been a victim of stalking.

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