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Stalking: Cameron to announce new crime with heavy sentences for offenders

David Cameron is today set to announce a change in law which will see stalking become a criminal offence in its own right for the first time.

Although police have some powers to act already, at present they must wait for another crime to be committed before they can intervene.

The state of the present law on the matter means that at present it is estimated that only 2% of those who engage in stalking activity are jailed. The maximum custodial sentence for someone convicted of harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 at the moment is six months in prison.

Mr Cameron will announce the law at a press conference at Downing Street accompanied by Tricia Bernal, whose daughter Clare was shot dead by her former boyfriend in the Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge in 2005.

Also at the conference will be Claire Waxman, who suffered an eight-year long campaign of stalking and harassment from a former boyfriend.

He was a successful Sky Sports producer, who it was later discovered had Googled Ms Waxman's name some 40,000 times, and had once posed as a parent to gain access to her child's nursery. He was jailed for two years, although only because he had breached the terms of a restraining order.

In his speech to launch the law, Mr Cameron is expected to say: "Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for the victims; breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours of the day."

"That is why we are criminalising stalking, to make sure justice is done, protect the victims and show that stalking is a crime," he will add.

The crime of stalking will carry a maximum jail sentence of six months, whilst stalking with violence will carry a maximum sentence of up to five years. This is a vast improvement on the current law, which allows stalkers who have broken into victims' houses and threatened to kill them to escape with community punishment orders and suspended sentences.

A survey of crime in the UK suggests that up to 120,000 or more people are victims of stalking each year. More worrying, a survey by probation union NAPO revealed that stalkers who flout restraining orders are more likely to go on to murder their victims.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Daily Mail)

Stalking and the law (FindLaw)