23 Jun 2014
Concerns have been expressed following an inquiry this week that victims of stalking offences are being let down by the Crown Prosecution Service as a result of the way in which offenders are being prosecuted.
Anti-harassment laws changed in 2012 when stalking involving a fear of violence or serious distress became an offence punishable by a maximum 5 year custodial sentence. This also gave police additional powers to investigate these offences more fully and it was hoped that this legislation would be used in cases where similar behaviour had in the past resulted in charges for the less serious offence of harassment, resulting in lesser penalties. Whilst the number of charges under the new legislation has risen consistently, the majority of these has related to the basic offence of stalking, rather than the more serious offence of stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm/distress.
HardingEvans FamilyFirst team frequently deal with victims of such harassment offences, says Siobhan Downes, Associate solicitor within the Family team.
“We are regularly advising both men and women in relation to stalking and harassment behaviour and this can often relate to the victim’s ex-partner. However, harassment and stalking take many forms and circumstances can be made worse where social media is involved. Whilst the police are becoming more pro-active in dealing with these problems and bodies such as Women’s Aid are able to provide practical assistance and advice, it can place the victim in a frightening and vulnerable position. This is especially the case where the victim does not feel the problem is being taken seriously”.
“It is always best to take legal advice In these circumstances since you may be able to obtain an injunction, known as a Non-Molestation Order, through the civil courts. Many also do not realise that there is still extensive legal aid funding in place for cases such as these to help those with limited financial means with any court application and legal fees.”
Contact Siobhan Downes for further information on 01633 244233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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