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Stalking victims demand tougher law

David Cameron is facing demands from stalking victims to make good 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 would only be dealt with 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.

The reforms are due to be considered when the Freedoms Bill gets its third reading in the Lords.

But, working with campaigners, Labour has tabled amendments allowing for psychological damage to be taken into account as well as fear of violence.

Another alteration would permit magistrates to refer serious cases to a higher court.

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.

"It seemed positive. He seemed to have a real handle on what needed to take place," she said. "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 naive but I thought if a Prime Minister agrees to something and commits to it, then it would happen."

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."


From Belfast Telegraph