Victims, charities, the police and public are to be asked their views on how we can protect victims of stalking more effectively, Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone announced today.
The consultation on stalking will look at various areas including legislation, training and guidance, and whether a specific offence of stalking is needed.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
'I have been clear that ending violence against women and girls is a personal priority for me and this government.
'I am determined to ensure that victims of stalking have the protection and support they need. That’s why we are listening to victims and looking at the legislation to make sure we have got it right.
'We are also making sure that the police and law enforcement agencies understand clearly how to use existing powers to intervene early and prevent the terrible suffering and distress that victims of stalking experience.'
Speaking today in Manchester, at the first of four regional events taking place on stalking, Minister for Equalities and Criminal Information, Lynne Featherstone said:
'Stalking is an issue which profoundly affects many lives, often in devastating ways.
'That is why we included stalking as a priority in our report ‘call to end violence against women and girls’, last autumn. And that is why we followed this up with specific actions to improve our response to this issue this spring.
'That is also why we are launching this consultation today to ask for your views on how we can protect victims of stalking more effectively.'
The protection from harassment act 1997 was designed primarily to capture stalking but in fact extends to other forms of harassment. The act was intentionally designed to be broad in order to capture the variety of tactics employed by stalkers which, when taken separately, may not constitute an offence in themselves.
However, while stalking and cyber stalking are included within the act, some campaigners believe that because these terms are not mentioned specifically the police do not always realise that the act can be used to tackle stalking and fail to take the appropriate action to deal with it.
The consultation will last for at least 12 weeks and will also look at police attitudes to, and training on, stalking and the impact of CPS guidance for prosecutors. It will also address the effectiveness of restraining orders in preventing harassment and stalking.
To coincide with the consultation, the Home Office is running a series of events in November and December with criminal justice systems partners including the police to ensure there is a better understanding of stalking and the damage it can cause to lives among the public and professionals.