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Stalking law: MPs call for change to law to make stalking a criminal offence

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A cross-party group is to publish a report following a six-month investigation into possible changes to the law regarding stalking.

The group looks set to recommend that the law is changed to give significant prison sentences for any stalking abuse, whether emotional or physical.

The cross-party report looks set to be published before a separate Home Office inquiry which has been looking at the matter through a public consultation. That consultation comes to an end today, but it will be some weeks before any concrete recommendations are made.

There is considerable and growing support in the UK at present for a change in the law. The Prime Minister David Cameron accepts that there is a gap in the criminal law at the moment regarding stalking, and that victims do need additional protection. The Home Secretary Theresa May and minister Lynne Featherstone are also thought to be sympathetic to the cause.

The chairman of the cross-party group, Elfyn Llwyd MP said: "We are very firmly of the view that there needs to be a change in the law. We've looked at other countries, such as the way Scotland has done it, and they have a law which resulted in several hundred successful prosecutions in the first year."

Any change in the criminal law would be accompanied by an awareness campaign to ensure that the CPS, police and probation services were made aware of the issue. There are approximately 120,000 stalking cases each year. Around half of these are reported to police and recorded as crimes, but only 50 of these lead to an offender being jailed.

There have been several high-profile cases, but perhaps none more so than that of department store worker Clare Bernal, who was shot dead by a stalker in Harvey Nichols in 2005. Her murderer was due in court one week later to face charges of harassment.

Probation Union NAPO has been a key backer of the new legislation. The union assistant general secretary, Harry fletcher, has spoken out on the state of the current law.

"The courts are not dealing with stalkers properly. Very few receive custodial sentences and those that do are not in prison long enough to receive treatment or rehabilitation," he said.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Stalking (FindLaw)

Find local criminal solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)

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