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
    +57

    Comment number 60.

    All these comments suggesting that generally stalkers are men...wow, how little you know.

    In my experience I've been at the receiving end of some relentlessly unpleasant and threatening behaviour from what can only be described as unhinged women. And so has my brother. And so has my colleague at work. There are some seriously warped women on the streets too you know.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 52.

    For those who have never been on the watch list of a stalker I can tell you from personal experience it is one of the most frightening things I have ever encountered. I was stalked by my boss who was able on a Monday morning to tell me where I had been and whom I had been socialising with. It wasn't until he did it to another girl in my office that action was taken. Don't mock people's fear.

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 39.

    This is great news. My ex-wife won't leave me alone, rings at all hours of the night, and turns up unannounced. The police say they can't do anything, as she has never made any threats. She just acts all friendly and nice, but won't let me move on, after nearly 4 years since our marriage ended. She's destroyed two relationships since, as new girlfriends can't cope with her. Women stalk too.

  • 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
    +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.

 

Comments 5 of 6

 

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