Inquiry: Stalking should be offence
A new offence of stalking should be brought in immediately to stop harassment and intimidation turning to murder, an inquiry has said.
But MPs and peers from all parties warned that a new law alone would not be enough to protect victims and "fundamental reform" of the system is needed.
The independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform called for key changes to be made to training, risk assessments and the treatment and sentencing of stalkers in the Government's ongoing review of harassment legislation.
It comes after a man who stalked his ex-girlfriend on Facebook before stabbing her to death was 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 that he was suffering a mental abnormality at the time, but an Old Bailey jury took just 90 minutes to find him guilty on Friday.
The inquiry recommended that anyone who breaches a restraining order should expect to be jailed and anyone charged with a serious violent or sexual offence should be refused bail unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The inquiry's 30 recommendations also called for a stalker's previous offences to be taken into account by judges and for restrictions to be placed on offenders' use of phones, IT and letters once they are behind bars.
A victims' advocacy scheme should also be set up to help support stalking victims through the criminal justice system, it said.
Elfyn Llwyd, the inquiry chairman, said: "Stalking is a crime which shatters lives - but for too long it has remained a hidden crime which victims have been reluctant to report, fearing that they wouldn't be taken seriously."
Laura Richards, of Protection Against Stalking and an adviser to the inquiry, said: "It is time for change and to recognise the physical and psychological harm and terror that stalking causes. This is about murder prevention."