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Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform

Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform

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Published by Bren Ryan

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Published by: Bren Ryan on Feb 07, 2012
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The panel concluded, based on the experience of victims and frontline practitioners, that the
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 needed significant revision.
The panel found that victims had a profound lack of confidence in the criminal justice system;
very few prosecutions under the Act resulted in a custodial sentence and that little if any
treatment was available for perpetrators.
The panel also concluded that training for criminal justice professionals was inadequate; that
risk assessments in respect of victims were not routinely carried out and that psychiatric
assessments in respect of perpetrators were largely absent.
Many of the recommendations in this report come directly from the experience of victims, some of
whom told their harrowing stories to the inquiry. Recommendations include revisions to the Bail Act,
so that those charged with serious sexual or violent offences are not routinely bailed; the
strengthening of sentencing guidelines so that there is an assumption of a custodial sentence
in respect of a breach of a restraining order; and that previous courses of conduct should
always be taken into account before sentencing for additional offences.
The inquiry concluded that a holistic approach was needed for reform and that amendments to
the 1997 Act would not be enough to express the concerns of victims. There was therefore all
party support for fundamental changes in attitudes towards the offence and behaviour of
stalking. These holistic changes are contained in a draft Bill which has the support of all
members of the inquiry panel and therefore representatives of all political parties, and none, in
both Houses of Parliament.
Significantly the panel is in agreement that an offence of stalking is needed in law.
The panel is also in agreement that stalking behaviour needs to be defined with a proviso that
new forms of conduct could be added to the Act through regulation laid by the Secretary of
State, to thus avoid unnecessary delay before such new behaviour can be criminalised.


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