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Interpretation

Part of Stalking Protection Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:52 am on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Sarah Wollaston Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons) 10:52 am, 23rd November 2018

I thank everyone who has contributed today with thoughtful speeches and interventions, including my hon. Friend Kevin Foster, my neighbour, whom I join in his tribute to the police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall for her courage in talking about her experience. I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), and for Dudley South (Mike Wood), for their thoughtful interventions. I thank the hon. Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) and for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), as well as my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon South (Chris Philp), and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), for their ongoing and long-standing work. I greatly appreciate all the support that I have received from colleagues across the House.

As we have heard, stalking is an insidious and dangerous crime with devastating consequences for victims and their families. Acts that initially appear, as we have heard, to be trivial, when seen as a whole have an extraordinary effect, not just on the individuals immediately affected but on everyone around them. Stalkers contact not just members of the family—my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham spoke about his constituent, Dr Aston—but people’s workmates and neighbours. There is a sense in which it never stops. As we heard from my hon. Friend, it is often described as murder in slow motion. It affects people’s physical and mental health, leaving them feeling isolated and fearful. It can escalate rapidly. In the context of domestic violence, about 50% of threats of violence are acted on, and there are many examples in which stalking has escalated to rape and murder.

Stalking behaviour is much more common than people realise. About one in five women and one in 10 men experience some kind of stalking behaviour in their adult lifetime, according to the crime survey for England and Wales. It typically takes about 100 episodes of stalking behaviour for victims to come forward. That is what the Bill is partly about. It is also about raising awareness and allowing this to be taken seriously. We hear time and again of people coming forward to report stalking behaviour, but it is dismissed as somehow a compliment.