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Llwyd launches inquiry into stalking laws

21/06/2022

Plaid Cymru's Elfyn Llwyd MP, chair of the justice unions group, has announced he will be leading a unique, cross-party investigation by MPs and Peers into reforming stalking laws.

The inquiry group will look at the case for revising the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), paying special attention to “cyber stalking”, which many campaign groups believe is not substantially covered by existing legislation. They will also examine the need for permissive powers to be turned into statutory duties.

The establishment of this inquiry follows on from a campaign led by Protection Against Stalking, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the Network for Surviving Stalking and Napo the Probation Union, and was backed by the parliamentary Justice Unions Group. The campaign also launched the UK’s first Stalking Awareness week.

The panel will invite experts from the field to give their evidence and to take part in a question and answer session. There will be up to four evidence sessions, the first of which will take place on July 7th. A report will later be produced and published by the group. Following this, the group will publish a Parliamentary Bill and action plan.

Mr Llwyd said:
“Around one in five people will experience stalking in the UK in their lifetime and unfortunately what we are now seeing is a growing trend in ‘cyber-stalking’.

“Internet and mobile phone usage is constantly on the increase, and with the advent of numerous social networking sites, this type of harassment has, unfortunately, become a very real problem.

“The current 1997 Protection from Harassment Act hasn’t been reviewed in fifteen years and urgently needs review.

“Stalking isn’t a ‘one – off’ crime and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

“Defining stalking more sufficiently in law would be a start but we must also combat society’s lenient attitude towards stalking. Statistics show that only a tiny percentage of reported harassment cases even reach court.

“This inquiry has been put together with widespread support from members in both Houses, from campaign groups, charities, the probation service and of course brave victims and their families. That is why this will be a ‘people’s inquiry’. It is high time that this issue was treated seriously.

“The Prime Minister has already agreed to meet with me to discuss this all important issue. I hope that our inquiry will be the first step towards tackling this and ensuring it is legislated on.”

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of NAPO and an adviser to the inquiry, said:

“There is an urgent need for a review of the stalking laws, for more training for criminal justice professionals and real support for victims.

“It is of concern at best one in three complaints are recorded as crimes by the police and just 12% then proceed to a disposal at court or 12% of them.

“The review is both unique and timely and will highlight public awareness of the serious damage of stalking behaviour.”

Laura Richards, Protection Against Stalking and adviser to the inquiry, added:

“This unique inquiry on stalking allows for an objective review of victims experience of the Criminal Justice System, as well as a review of existing legislation. Victims’ voices will be heard for the first time, as well as specialist professionals and experts on stalking about what's going on and what needs to change.

“Stalking is where domestic abuse was twenty years ago and we know first-hand that failure to deal adequately with stalking can result in high profile tragedies. This is about homicide prevention.”

 

The terms of reference of the inquiry will be to examine the following:

a) The substantive law in England and Wales
b) The sentencing practice
c) Availability of treatment programmes
d) Parole arrangements
e) The need for training for police and the Probation Service
f) To examine stalking law in the European Union
g) The experience of victims