Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

New stalking laws 'disappointing'

David Cameron has been criticised over his new stalking legislation proposals

David Cameron has been accused by stalking victims of reneging on his pledge to toughen the law.

The Prime Minister announced at a reception last week that stalking was to become a specific criminal offence. He insisted that existing legislation was not "good enough or strong enough" to deal with the "dreadful" problem.

But after studying the measures proposed by the Government, campaigners have concluded they will make little difference.

The changes would create one stalking offence that was triable only by magistrates - with a maximum sentence of six months.

A second more serious offence could attract heavier punishments in crown court, but the prosecution would need to show the victim suffered "fear of violence" - something critics say is very difficult to prove.

Claire Waxman, who was awarded damages after the authorities failed to protect her from a stalker, met the premier at the Downing Street event on Thursday. She said: "It seemed positive. He seemed to have a real handle on what needed to take place.

"I just don't know what has happened since that meeting. This is pretty much what we have already got. They have just added in the word 'stalking' (to anti-harassment legislation).

"It is pretty disappointing to say the least. Maybe I am naïve but I thought if a Prime Minister agrees to something and commits to it, then it would happen."

Tracey Morgan, who was subjected to an eight-year reign of terror by a work colleague, also met Mr Cameron on Thursday. "I felt he listened and took in what we were saying, but looking at the proposals I wonder, what's the point?" she said. "It is disappointing really."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary at probation union Napo, which has been campaigning for stronger legislation, said: "The stalking reforms are welcome but do not give adequate and proper protection for victims. The Government must recognise that stalking results in psychological harm and wrecks lives."

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