Paul Frew DUP MLA and Chairman of the Justice Committee in The Assembly has spoken on the need for new legislation to tackle the scourge of Stalking. Currently stalking is covered under Northern Ireland Harassment law but Frew believes Stalking needs to be uncovered.
Frew explained: “If we clump stalking in with harassment, which we have done, it means that we do not understand the nature and essence of stalking, we cannot measure the scale of stalking, and we cannot fathom its effects on victims and their families. If someone is charged with some offence because they have stalked somebody, it is for some other offence. That defeats the purpose; it means that those people find it acceptable to continue to carry out their activity.
At the minute, stalking — it grieves me to say this — is the butt of many a joke. It should not be. We need to educate people to the seriousness of this crime . This has been described to me as ‘Murder in slow motion ‘ whereby in some extreme cases someone steals a life then takes a life!
For victims of stalking, their workplace, neighbourhood, street and home become a prison. The very body that contains their soul becomes a prison. Their mind becomes their prison. Their computer and phone are windows of despair and anxiety. They feel that no one is listening to them. There is no law to protect them. The police do not have guidance to support them; that is clear when you read the stats and the evidence about how long some people are being victims. In many cases, it is 18 months, and 42% are stalked for more than 24 months. Many cases of stalking goes on for years . That could simply be because nobody is helping those victims and they don’t understand the perpetrator .People are getting away with this type of crime.
The people who commit this crime are delusional. They need help, and sometimes they need to be removed from society and treated. How are we to treat the perpetrators if we do not even acknowledge that they have committed this specific crime? We should go much further than just having crimes of stalking. If we had crimes of stalking we could have registers, disclosure schemes, guidance for the police and the prosecutors, and guidance and support for the victims.
We will work with the Justice Minister to develop a strategy going forward but it needs to have within it the will to enact fresh legislation like England and Wales who brought in new law in 2012.”