Here are some of the headlines in the press and media this week as the Home Office launches its consultation on stalking:
Stalking may become criminal offence – Telegraph
Stalking – in person or online – to be made an offence – Independent
Justice System “fails stalking victims” – Morning Star
Stalking Victims ‘Let Down By the System’ – Sky News
Stalking to be made a crime – Police Oracle
Many of the headlines are misleading in that much of the behaviour which constitutes what we know of colloquially as “stalking” or “cyber stalking” would constitute a crime under existing legislation such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
It should not be a surprise that much of this behaviour remains unreported to the police when in the words of Womens Aid “Stalking is one of the most frequently experienced types of abuse – and contrary to common belief, most stalkers are former partners or friends of their victims”. That does not imply a fault in the law.
Early evidence on “cyber stalking” suggests few partners or ex-partners engage in this behaviour. The law does not however relate in exclusivity to either strangers or known abusers.
Based only on case studies, in the absence of more complete research I would support raising awareness of “stalking” both in terms of behaviour and impact. I would also support improving systemic and individual responses to such behaviours and to addressing negative impacts.
I do not; however see any need to change the legislation (at a cost) which already encompasses the behaviours that it needs to.