Stalking victims get new protection
New laws designed to give extra protection to victims of stalking have come into force.
The Government is also providing new support aimed at reducing domestic and sexual violence and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Two specific criminal offences of stalking have come into force in England and Wales for the first time. This is part of a package of new funds and measures to crack down on abuse leading into the 16 days of action that follow the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said: "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."
The new offences sit alongside existing ones of harassment in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. They are designed to provide extra protection for victims, highlight the serious impact stalking can have on their lives and help bring more perpetrators to justice.
Mr Browne also announced extra support to tackle violence against women and girls. This includes a £150,000 fund for domestic homicide reviews to help local areas prevent future domestic violence tragedies, and the launch of a declaration against FGM and additional £50,000 funding to support frontline agencies tackling the problem.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it has produced, in association with the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), a new checklist for police and prosecutors to use in cases of domestic violence. It has also updated its guidance to prosecutors to reflect the introduction of the new stalking offences and will soon be launching new training on cyber-stalking.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said: "Violence against women and girls is a key priority for the CPS and we have taken a number of steps to improve the prosecution of these types of offences. This includes a continued commitment to equip prosecutors with useful and relevant tools, guidance and training in order to enhance our ability to effectively prosecute people who commit these crimes.
"In domestic violence cases, we work hard to build the best case possible and it is vital that every opportunity to gather evidence is taken. We continue to improve our performance in achieving successful prosecutions of violence against women and girls, with nearly three-quarters of domestic violence prosecutions ending in a conviction last year."