This just in:
The government plans to double the sentence for stalking from 5 to 10 years. Justice Minister Sam Gyimah confirmed the move this afternoon, which follows the recently announced plan to create new stalking protection orders.
Campaigners and victims of stalking will no doubt welcome the news, which also includes a change in sentencing guidelines for racially or religiously aggravated stalking – the maximum custodial sentence available to the courts for this offence will increase from 7 to 14 years.
Justice Minister Sam Gyimah:
Stalkers torment their victims and can make everyday life almost unbearable. We are doubling the maximum sentences available to the courts so these awful crimes can be properly punished.
I would like to thank Alex Chalk MP and Richard Graham MP for their considerable efforts in highlighting this issue.
We are also working across the criminal justice system to ensure mental health issues associated with these crimes are properly addressed.
The press release goes on to tell us that the government will be hoping to implement these changes via the Policing and Crime Bill, which is going through Parliament at the moment. The government tabled these amendments to the Bill today. There are also plans to raise the maximum sentence for harassment – from 5 to 10 years and 7 to 14 years if racially or religiously aggravated.
New protection orders will also be used to intervene early to keep victims safe and stop ‘stranger stalking’ before it worsens. The new measures will give the police permission to place controls on perpetrators, which will prevent their behaviour intensifying while the crime is being investigated.
In 2015, 1,029 people were convicted of the two offences (194 people of the stalking offence and 835 of putting people in fear of violence). The average custodial sentence for stalking was 14.1 months.