Stalking law changes could help bullying victims.

The fact that stalkers in Britain could face longer jail sentences under a tough new crackdown must in some way be of comfort to victims of bullying.

Stalking, harassment and bullying are loosely linked. One can lead to the other, or vice versa. Both are hard to define. In each case, perpetrators will often use multiple and differing methods to harass their victims. The circumstances from both may make daily life unbearable.  In many instances, stalking is used as a form of abuse by controlling bullies and their cronies, particularly via the internet.

While bullying behaviour is difficult to set as a crime, stalking is recognised as a serious offence.  There has been a 32 percent rise recently. In the UK police recorded 4,168. One in five women and one in ten men experience it. However, despite this, figures show that only 194 people received convictions in England and Wales in 2015.

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The average custodial sentence was just 14.1 months. So the campaigns by Tory MPs Richard Graham and Alex Chalk have been effective in getting Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary to act. The Government will introduce these changes by amending the Policing and Crime Bill, currently in Parliament. The maximum prison sentence of five years could then be extended to ten.  If the stalking has a racial or religious motive this may even mean jail for 14 years instead of seven.

A few examples of stalking which can lead to conviction include persistent and clearly unwelcome attention, causing fear and anxiety. Examples consist of regularly sending flowers or gifts, making unwanted or malicious communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault.

There’s a  “grey” area. Is all stalking a crime?  The colloquial use of “stalking”, which refers to checking out what people are up to on social media is even encouraged as part of job hunting and social networking.

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