How should we treat stalkers?

The beautiful young daughter of my friend’s friend was murdered by a stalker. She had befriended a Holocaust survivor who she was photographing for an assignment and he developed an obsession about her.

Stalking is currently in the news following the publication of  a parliamentary inquiry which concluded that the laws on harassment and stalking are not “fit for purpose” 15 years after they were made, and are in need of fundamental reform. They inquiry believes that while the police and criminal justice system provides protection to the rich and famous from stalkers, it fails to take complaints from the public seriously. At the same time, the world’s first clinic has opened to provide treatment for stalkers based at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

Whenever I watch a psychological thriller, I find any filming of stalkers is the most sinister, chilling and terrifying part. Quite clearly there should be updated laws and advice about how police should deal with stalking; more than three quarters of cases murders by ex-partners involve stalking.

Interestingly, a decision to create a specific criminal offence of stalking in Scotland in 2010 has already had a dramatic impact, resulting in 400 alleged stalkers being prosecuted in the first 11 months of 2011, compared with just 70 in the whole of the previous 10 years under the UK-wide 1997 Protection from Harassment Act. The parliamentary inquiry found that in England the 1997 legislation was used more often to prosecute neighbours arguing about garden hedges and only rarely to deal with stalking.

David Cameron, whose brother, Alexander, recently complained to the police about a stalker, has admitted there is a gap in the law and strongly hinted he wants to see a new specific offence created. And the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has long campaigned on the issue after she took up a constituency case of a mother whose daughter was murdered by a stalker after complaining to the police. A Home Office consultation on whether a specific criminal offence should be created in England and Wales closed on Monday.

Let’s hope this new clinic can save lives, let’s hope that new laws are introduced in the UK too specifically for stalking. Please take this seriously. I wonder if a clause could be included to deal with harassment and intimidation caused by cyber bullies too.