Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Stalking law plans 'half-hearted'

Tougher laws have been announced to protect victims of stalking

David Cameron's plans to bring in a new law of stalking will leave the police needing to prove a fear of violence and will not solve the problems with the current system, Labour has said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the plans risked being "half-hearted and over-complicated" and would not give victims the protection they needed.

Her criticism came after the Prime Minister told victims at a Downing Street reception to mark International Women's Day that the Government was determined to ensure "justice is done".

But Labour said bringing in two new offences in England and Wales - stalking, and stalking where there is a fear of violence - would leave police and prosecutors with the same problems.

Proving a fear of violence "has been very hard to make work in practice and has meant too many serious cases fell through the net", Ms Cooper said.

"Under the government's proposals there is a serious risk that low sentencing will continue and many persistent stalkers could still be out of prison within weeks free to continue their behaviour. The Government must not waste time with half-hearted measures which deny victims the protection they need."

She called for a system based on the Scottish model instead, saying the Government should back a Labour amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill on the issue in the House of Lords on Monday.

But Mr Cameron said the Government was explicitly criminalising stalking, which he said "makes life a living hell for victims", to "show beyond doubt that stalking is a crime".

Home Secretary Theresa May added: "Stalking is an issue which affects many lives, often in devastating ways. That is why we are taking it seriously and introducing these new offences. Offenders need to know that they will be brought to justice for making others' lives a misery."

Police will also be given new powers of entry to investigate stalking offences, the Home Office said. At the moment, officers only have a right of entry in respect of conduct that puts people in fear of violence.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz