The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that the maximum prison sentence for stalking is to be doubled to 10 years.
The decision to increase sentences for stalking follows cross-party political pressure in parliament. Two Conservative backbenchers, Alex Chalk and Richard Graham, introduced a private member’s bill last year calling for the limit to be doubled. Their initiative was then adopted by the Labour peer Janet Royall in the House of Lords, where it was passed by a majority in December 2016.
The justice minister Sam Gyimah said in regards to the increase in sentence time: “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.” She went on to say that “We are also working across the criminal justice system to ensure mental health issues associated with these crimes are properly addressed.”
In 2015, a total of 194 people were convicted of stalking offences and 835 were convicted of the related offence of putting people in fear of violence. The average custodial sentence for stalking was 14.1 months.
Concerns have been raised that doubling the maximum penalties for stalking, when compared to sentences for other crimes involving violence and physical harm, will upset the hierarchy of punishments available to the courts.
In December the home secretary, Amber Rudd, announced the creation of stalking protection orders to allow courts to impose restrictions on perpetrators at an earlier stage while police investigate complaints.
Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, responding to the Ministry of Justice announcement on sentencing for stalking offences, said that “more still needs to be done to ensure that victims of stalking feel confident enough that their complaint will be investigated properly when they first report it.”