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The Government has announced that stalking will become a criminal offence in England and Wales for the first time under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
Two new laws have come into effect - stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence. They will carry maximum prison sentence of 6 months and 5 years respectively. Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said: "These new offences send a clear message to offenders that stalking is a serious crime and they will be brought to justice for making others' lives a misery."
Stalking was made a serious crime in Scotland in 2010. Campaigners have long claimed that existing harassment laws were inadequate. Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, welcomed the change, and said: "It also gives victims the reassurance that they will be taken seriously."
However, both Victim Support and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust commented that although important steps have been taken, much more needs to be done before victims have the recognition and support they need. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust called for Government, prosecutors, courts, judges, police and prisons to improve their knowledge of this issue and are campaigning for more support for victims during their experience of stalking, and also when dealing with the justice process.
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