Stalking to become an imprisonable offence

David Cameron will announce an enactment today that will recognise stalking as a crime

Stalking will be an imprisonable offence for the first time in England and Wales under legislation implemented by the Prime Minister today.

As part of International Women’s Day and a step forward for the justice system, David Cameron will announce the enactment at a reception at Downing Street.

There are an estimated 120,000 cases of stalking each year, with only 4,365 harassment convictions in 2009. Of those, only 565 were jailed.

Last year, 786 people were found guilty of putting a person in fear of violence, and of those only 170 were jailed.

The figures have raised concerns that the Protection from Harassment Act is ineffective and that victims aren’t being taken seriously.

‘The evidence that we need a specific offence of stalking is overwhelming,”‘ says Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation union. ‘Perpetrators rarely receive custodial sentences or are treated. This is a scandal that must end without delay.’

Currently, police must wait for suspects to commit another crime, such as harassment or breaching a restraining order, before acting further.

Consequently, only two per cent of stalkers are jailed, with a maximum sentence of six months, under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Following today’s announcement, stalking will be a crime carrying a sentence of up to six months and a £5,000 fine, with more serious cases incurring sentences of up to five years and unlimited fines.

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