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Stalkers Stalked: New Law Is Just The Start

with 4 comments

Originally published for The Backbencher on 02/12/2012

 

ALICE (not her real name) was stalked for five years. Her stalker sent her husband poison pen letters, type- written in order to conceal their identity.  Everything was noticed and mentioned in detail: the car she drove, her clothes, the friends she had, the parties she attended, where she went, who she saw. Everything.

The letters proceeded with alarming regularity, often two in one month. Someone was out there, watching. The language was crude, offensive, personal and hateful.  It affected Alice greatly.  She’d walk through the town centre wondering, “Is it you…is it you? Are you doing this?”

Eventually, three years ago, she called the police, who she says were sympathetic. Although they made the right noises, the investigation was closed as they couldn’t find the culprit. Fingerprints were evident, but as the person wasn’t on their database the case was closed.  Although the five-year ordeal stopped, Alice never found out the identity of her stalker. The most incredulous thing, however, is that until this week, what happened to Alice would not have been described as stalking in the context of the criminal justice system.

Previous laws on harassment and stalking were “not fit for purpose”

On Monday, two specific criminal offences of stalking (stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence) came into force in England and Wales for the first time. The new offences sit alongside ones of harassment in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.   The Home Office minister Jeremy Brown said the new offences are designed to provide extra protection for victims, highlight the serious impact stalking can have on them and help bring more perpetrators to justice. This comes after an independent parliamentary inquiry, which found the previous laws on harassment and stalking were “not fit for purpose”.

They also found that 120,000 victims, mostly women, were stalked every year, but only half lead to a reported crime and only one in 50 incidents leads to a conviction. Mr Brown said there is some evidence that making stalking a specific offence helps convict more people, after Scotland brought in similar laws two years ago.

He went on to say: “Stalking is an appalling crime that destroys lives. The impact on victims can be devastating and we are doing all we can to make sure they have the protection they need and do not have to live in fear.

“These new offences send a clear message to offenders that stalking is a serious crime and they will be brought to justice for making others’ lives a misery.”

Certainly this legislation will be welcome from organisations such as Protection Against Stalking and the Network for Surviving Stalking who have been aiming for precisely this. These new laws are long overdue. Stalkers wreck decent peoples lives. But this legislation must not be the be all and end all – legislation can only do so much. The system needs to try to stop the cases from escalating. Abusers were often charged with the less serious offence of harassment. This resulted in more lenient sentences of 12 months or less in prison, and many being granted community orders.

Stalkers will repeat-offend until they are treated

This is just the beginning of a wide range of measures that should be implemented to tackle this crime seriously. Alexis Bowater, chiefexecutive of the NSS, said that stalkers will repeat-offend until they are treated, so there needs to be mandatory treatment, and there needs to be better support for victims. Police have, at times, been accused of not providing adequate protection and support for victims of stalking as they do for the rich and celebrities.

Harry Fletcher of Napo, the probation union, who was an adviser to the parliamentary inquiry, said: “What you have is the ‘fixated threat assessment centre’ set up by the Met in 2006 to protect the rich and famous but the thousands of ordinary people do not get anything.”

This must be addressed. Many years ago domestic violence was dealt with in the same way as stalking is now. Hopefully, with better training and guidance from charities and organisations that deal with stalking, police can stop stalkers and victims can feel more confident in the system, knowing that the authorities understand their ordeal, which can then lead to more prosecutions of perpetrators.

There is still a lot that needs to be done. Let us hope that this legislation is one step in the right direction.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

December 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Domestic violence was dwelt with by declaring an all out war on men which led to the perverting of the law in regards to intimate partner violence in spite of the fact that women are just as abusive and violent in their relationships. No doubt these new stalking laws will be perverted as well causing many more men to forsake intimate relationships with women.

    DaPoet

    December 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm

  2. Reblogged this on Until The Twilight and commented:
    Domestic violence was dwelt with by declaring an all out war on men which led to the perverting of the law in regards to intimate partner violence in spite of the fact that women are just as abusive and violent in their relationships. No doubt these new stalking laws will be perverted as well causing many more men to forsake intimate relationships with women.

    DaPoet

    December 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  3. Well written and well said. So often women are not helped even though they repeatedly report harassment and threats then they are maimed or worse found dead may this be a step forward

    willowdot21

    December 24, 2012 at 7:37 am

  4. Reblogged this on NEWS@ HOFF – News and Views! and commented:
    Interesting article from Iram Ramzan on the new Stalking Legislation …. what do you guys think?

    sajhoffmanhussain

    January 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm


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