STALKING is now a specific criminal offence under a new law designed to better protect victims.
West Mercia Police and the Worcestershire Forum Against Domestic Abuse have welcomed the changes, which came into effect on Sunday.
Martin Lakeman, strategic co-ordinator for the forum said: “We welcome the change in law regarding harassment and stalking. It sends out a clear message that such behaviour will not be tolerated and also, importantly, offers security and protection to victims of harassment and stalking.
“The change in law comes at a time when the forum is supporting an international event that aims to end violence against women and we thoroughly support it.”
The change to the law comes in the same week that a campaign to end domestic violence has been launched in Worcester.
The 16 Days of Action is supported by the forum and runs until Monday, December 10. It is being backed by your Worcester News and we are displaying the campaign’s symbol, a white ribbon, on our masthead every day throughout the campaign.
Detective chief inspector Paul Williamson from West Mercia Police, who sits on the Association of Chief Police Officers’ stalking and harassment working group, said: “Stalking is different from harassment as it involves fixation – ‘the hunter and the hunted’. It is life-changing and some victims of stalking endure years of abuse and other cases end in homicide.
“The 1997 Act was introduced to deal with offences of stalking and harassment. However, because a specific criminal offence of stalking was not introduced at that time, police and prosecutors in many cases failed to take a positive approach.
“The new law is designed to better protect stalking victims as opposed to more general anti social behaviour harassment victims".
The new stalking law is a change to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 creates two new offences of stalking and stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm and distress, under sections 2A and 4A of the 1997 Act. The amendments also give police powers to enter and search premises.
The new offences will not apply retrospectively so can only be used for offences that take place after November 25.
For more information and advice about stalking and the change to the law, visit westmercia.police.uk/ or stalkinghelpline.org.
Alternatively, call The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.