Anti-stalking champion Alex Chalk is supporting a new national campaign to fight the scourge of stalkers. After a long fight on behalf of a Cheltenham GP who suffered a dreadful stalking ordeal, last year Alex Chalk forced through a change in the law.
Tabling a Private Members Bill, leading debates and working with cross-party Parliamentarians, Alex Chalk managed to secure a doubling in the maximum sentence from five to ten years and give judges the tools they needed to keep victims safe.
Now the Cheltenham MP is backing a new Stalking Protection Bill as the “next piece of the jigsaw”.
The Bill passed a second reading in Parliament on Friday 19th January. It will fill a gap in the law to protect people who are being stalked by strangers, who currently don’t have the same protections as those stalked by former partners. The Bill would take the onus off victims, such as TV presenter Emily Maitlis, by introducing Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs), which the police could apply for on their behalf to stop their lives being blighted by stalkers.
It currently takes around a hundred instances of stalking before victims come forward to make a complaint.
Speaking in Parliament Alex Chalk said: “Stalking is a horrible, violating crime that rips relationships apart and shatters lives. Inevitably, it is the cases involving celebrities that hit the headlines, but it is important to emphasise that this phenomenon is no respecter of fame or fortune. It is far more indiscriminate than that, and anyone can be a victim.
“(Dr Eleanor Aston and Hollie Gazzard) are just two examples of ordinary people from just one county, Gloucestershire, so it is no surprise that research carried out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in 2017 showed that a staggeringly high proportion of homicides against women were preceded by behaviour that could properly be characterised as stalking.”
Alex Chalk commented: "I am hugely proud of the huge strides that have been made in tackling the menace of stalking – including doubling the maximum sentence last year.
“We want victims of stalking to have the confidence to come forward at an earlier stage in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and that the police will have the powers to put in place protections on their behalf
“In 2016-17, 959 prosecutions were commenced under the new offences – this is encouraging and shows that the tougher legislation is taking effect. Stalking Protection Orders will fill a gap in the law and take the onus off victims by allowing the police to put in place vital early protection whilst an investigation is ongoing.”
Rachel Griffin, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns for improved protection for stalking victims and runs the National Stalking Helpline, said:
“We are delighted that the Stalking Protection Bill has passed to the next stage in Parliament. Stalking is a devastating crime that affects over 1 million people in the UK every year, and has a significant impact on victims’ psychological and physical wellbeing. It is imperative that anyone affected by this insidious crime can be confident that they will be protected by robust, sensible and crime specific legislation.
“We know that early recognition and intervention can improve the safety of victims by breaking the cycle of obsession and fixation which motivates perpetrators. Stalking Protection Orders could improve responses to stalking, and allow criminal justice professionals to protect victims at the earliest possible stage.
“It is vital that all criminal justice professionals, including frontline police officers, are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to respond to this crime responsibly. These new orders must be introduced with appropriate training, so that police officers are able to take decisive action to restrict concerning stalking behaviours and protect victims.”
Following its Second Reading, the Bill will now proceed to committee stage in the Commons.