The Government has introduced two new offences, stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence in a bid to improve the safety of people harassed by stalkers.
The laws should result in tougher jail sentences for stalkers, who hitherto could only be charged with harassment, which attracted more lenient sentences of 12 months or less in prison, while many stalkers often only got community orders.
In England and Wales, it is estimated that 120,000 victims, most of whom are women, are stalked each year, but only 53,000 of these are recorded as crimes by police, and only one in 50 of those actually lead to an offender being jailed.
However, stalking is already a criminal offence in Scotland and since the law changed there in 2010, 443 offenders have been prosecuted, whereas before then, only 70 had been charged over the previous 10 years.
Describing stalking as “an abhorrent crime” that makes life a living hell for victims, the Prime Minister first intimated that stalking would become a criminal offence back in March and was particularly worried about harassment that led to murder.
Campaigners have long said that the existing harassment laws are inadequate and welcome the new laws, as they should provide greater clarity around the offence for the police.
Recent cases of stalking that have led to murder include that of Clifford Mills, who stalked his ex-girlfriend Lorna Smith on Facebook before stabbing her to death at his flat in February 2011.
Most police forces have a team of specially trained officers who deal with complaints of stalking and they use the national risk assessment tool called DASH, which stands for the domestic abuse, stalking and harassment and honour-based violence risk identification and assessment checklist to assess and manage the risk associated with such cases.
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London
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