New anti-stalking laws expected

 

Stalking is to be made a specific criminal offence, David Cameron
announced today, as he promised new protection for the victims of this
"abhorrent" crime.

The Prime Minister, who will meet stalking victims at No 10 reception to mark International Women's Day, said the Government was determined to ensure "justice is done".

"Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for the victims - breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours of the day," he said.

"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."

The move comes after a parliamentary inquiry called for a new offence in England and Wales to be brought in immediately to stop harassment and intimidation turning to murder.

But MPs and peers from all parties warned that a new law alone would not be enough to protect victims and that "fundamental reform" of the system was needed.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper urged the Government to support a Labour amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill - which would create a new offence based on the law in Scotland - in the House of Lords on Monday.

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

"Victims have already waited too long, and the Prime Minister should support our tough and clear new offence."

Laura Richards, a psychologist who was an adviser to the parliamentary inquiry, welcomed the Government move saying victims were being repeatedly let down by criminal justice agencies in a "scandal that cannot continue".

It follows a year-long campaign by the charity Protection Against Stalking and the probation union Napo.

Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, said: "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."

Mr Fletcher, also an adviser to the inquiry, said the Government's proposals would be examined in detail to ensure they will effectively deal with the problems of the current system.

Changing the laws on harassment to create an offence of putting someone in fear of violence would always be hard to prove in court, leading to stalkers being convicted of lesser offences and being back on the streets quicker, they warned.

Some 120,000 victims, mostly women, are stalked each year but just 53,000 are recorded as crimes by police and only one in 50 of these lead to an offender being jailed, the inquiry heard.

Just 20 stalkers a year are jailed for longer than 12 months for putting a victim in fear of violence, while some were behind bars for just days and others were sentenced to community orders and "inappropriate" domestic violence courses, campaigners said.

The calls for reform came as a man who stalked his ex-girlfriend on Facebook before stabbing her to death was jailed for life with a minimum term of 21 years after being found guilty of murder.

Clifford Mills, 49, attacked Lorna Smith after inviting her to his flat in Brixton, south London in February last year. He denied murder, claiming he was suffering mental abnormality at the time, but an Old Bailey jury took just 90 minutes to find him guilty last month.

Another stalking victim, Claire Waxman, 35, was awarded £3,500 damages after the High Court ruled the state failed to protect her when charges against her stalker were dropped.

Ms Waxman, who runs a business in Willesden Green, north-west London, complained of "serious and persistent" harassment over eight years by freelance television producer Elliot Fogel, 36.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said Ms Waxman was entitled to damages in respect of the "alarm and distress caused by the failure of the CPS to pursue the prosecution".

He said: "The state owed her a duty to take proper measures to protect her and was in breach of its duty in failing to pursue the prosecution."

Ms Waxman is expected at today's reception along with Tricia Bernal whose daughter Clare was shot and killed by her obsessive ex-boyfriend in Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, London in 2005.

Michael Pech, 30, was awaiting sentencing after admitting harassing Ms Bernal, 22, when he killed her. He then turned the gun on himself.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk