Two new specific criminal offences of stalking will be introduced in England and Wales, the Prime Minister has said.
The new offences of stalking and stalking where there is a fear of violence will be created to sit alongside existing offences of harassment in the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 (PHA).
The government is tabling amendments to the Protection of Freedoms Bill for Lords Report stage, on Monday 12 March 2012, so that these new offences can be enacted as soon as possible.
Two new offences
Currently the law is designed to capture the variety of tactics employed by stalkers which, when taken separately, may not constitute an offence in themselves. Adding specific offences of stalking will provide greater clarity around this offence for the police and others looking to improve the safety of victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
The Prime Minister said:
‘Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for victims – breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours a day.
‘That is why we are explicitly criminalising stalking, to make sure that justice is done, protect the victims and show beyond doubt that stalking is a crime.’
The news follows a 12-week consultation run by the Home Office which received a strongly positive response from the public in favour of the creation of a new offence.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
‘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.
‘We will do all we can to protect victims of stalking more effectively and to end this appalling crime.’
New powers of entry
The police will also be given new powers of entry to investigate stalking offences. Until now, the police have only had a right of entry in respect of conduct that puts people in fear of violence.
In addition to the introduction of these new offences, the government is looking at better training and guidance for the police and Crown Prosecution Service so that victims of stalking get the support they deserve.