David Cameron's plan for legislation to criminalise stalking does not recognise the psychological damage, say campaigners
Stalking victims have attacked new laws designed to protect them, saying they fail to recognise that many women are left psychologically devastated by the crime.
David Cameron declared last week, on International Women's Day, that stalking was "abhorrent" and announced that the government would make it a specific criminal offence in England and Wales. However, the reform, designed to help the tens of thousands of victims each year, does not go far enough, according to the charity Protection Against Stalking (PAS) and Napo, the probation union.
The groups say that under the new laws stalkers would be prosecuted in the crown court only if it could be shown that their victims had experienced a "fear of violence" ? a difficult claim to establish, say legal experts. Instead, the vast majority of cases ? those involving psychological abuse ? would be heard only in the magistrates court, where perpetrators would face a maximum of six months imprisonment and released automatically at the halfway point, an insufficient amount of time to address their offending, according to criminologists.
Claire Waxman, who was stalked by Elliot Fogel, a Sky Sports producer, said that the new laws were not substantial enough. "They will do nothing for cases like mine, which go on for years and involve huge psychological trauma," she said. Tracey Morgan, another stalking victim, said: "The legislation that is going to be drafted is not going to save lives."Laura Richards of PAS called for legislation similar to that in Scotland. "We know what works as we have seen what is possible with the Scottish legislation. We want the government to take note ? otherwise victims will continue to be left unprotected and they will pay with their lives," she said.
"The government must recognise that stalking results in psychological harm and wrecks lives," said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo. "Limiting psychological effects to the magistrates court will mean that sentences are woefully short."