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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Gordon Henderson supports stalking law reform

3rd February 2012
Gordon Henderson supports stalking law reform

The report and recommendations arising from the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform is published today. The report concludes that the existing laws on harassment and stalking are not ‘fit for purpose’ and that fundamental reform is needed.

Specifically the report’s recommendations call for an offence of stalking to be introduced into legislation in England and Wales without delay. The report also calls for fundamental changes to training, risk assessment of victims and treatment of offenders. Critically the report also calls for the establishment of a Victims’ Advocacy Scheme to signpost and support victims of stalking through the criminal justice system.

The inquiry panel consisted of 15 members including local MP Gordon Henderson.

Mr Henderson heard harrowing evidence from a range of victims of stalking who described their lack of confidence in the criminal justice system and their fears that their complaints were not taken seriously. They also criticised the lack of treatment for perpetrators. Overwhelmingly the victims told the inquiry that their complaints were rarely recorded as crimes and even if they were hardly any perpetrators received a custodial sentence and none appeared to receive treatment.

Many of the victims complained that the stalking had been going on for years and there had been hundreds of incidents including unwanted emails, letters and gifts, offenders loitering near homes and work places, being followed and spied on and receiving threats of a violent nature. Repeatedly the parliamentarians were told that unless there was early intervention, behaviour escalated and resulted in serious violence and even death.

Mr Henderson said:

“Stalking is a crime, like rape, that has a disproportionate affect on women. But unlike, rape, it has never been clearly defined in English law, which has meant that stalking has made the lives of a large number of women a misery, with offenders getting away with their harassment.

“Our bill seeks to define stalking in such a way that offenders will be able to be prosecuted. In addition, those working in the justice system will be better trained to identify stalking and bring culprits to book.”

The inquiry was launched in June 2011 following requests from Laura Richards from Protection Against Stalking and Harry Fletcher from Napo, the Probation trade union, that an investigation be held into the inadequacy of the law. They acted as advisors to the inquiry and told (local MP name) that the existing law, the Protection from Harassment (1997), was woefully inadequate and needed drastic reform.

The inquiry, which was unique and independent and involved all Parties and both Houses of Parliament, met for five evidential sessions between July and December 2011 and subsequently with the help of the advisors drew up the report and recommendations. The advisors to the inquiry with the support of parliamentarians have drafted a comprehensive parliamentary Bill which it is hoped will be introduced into parliament in the very near future.

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