A number of MPs are calling for anti-stalking laws to be updated to make ‘cyber-stalking’ a criminal offence.
Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd has called for a review of the Protection From Harassment Act 1997. He says that electronic stalking is on the increase but is not currently covered by criminal law.
Although the existing Act recognises that stalking and harassment are a crime, Plaid say there is evidence that many incidents of stalking reported to the police are not investigated. The party points to evidence from the charity Protection Against Stalking, who highlight research showing that 80 per cent of stalkers are male, although the gender of victims is more variable.
Llwyd has tabled an Early Day Motion (a parliamentary petition) on this issue which has now received cross-party support.
The campaign to review the 1997 Act has already gained the backing of organisations such as Protection Against Stalking, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the Network for Surviving Stalking and Napo, the Probation Union.
The Association of Chief Police Officers has also stated publicly that police officers need a better understanding of the risk that stalkers pose to victims.
“Stalking is a serious issue which shatters lives,” said Llwyd today (16 February), “Many victims are physically assaulted, left psychologically scarred and some even murdered by their tormentors”.
He added, “I believe that there is an ignorance of the ramifications of this crime and that far too many reported incidents of stalking are not treated as potential crimes by the police. This is a practice which must be stopped as a matter of urgency. Stalking is not a problem which will go away if ignored.”
Llwyd will chair an event on the issue at Westminster on 30 March, ahead of National Stalking Awareness Week, which begins on 11 April.
“The current Act has not been reviewed in fifteen years, and is quite clearly in need of re-examination,” insisted Llwyd.