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 my hon. Friend.

Raising awareness will help to encourage more people to come forward. There has been some encouraging progress. In the 2017-18 crime survey for England and Wales, there were more than 10,000 recorded offences of stalking, almost double the previous number of 5,313. The increase is likely to be due to improvements in the recording of the crime, rather than an increase in stalking. That is an important point: laws in themselves will not protect victims. A key focus is to make sure that we have better recording so that victims are more confident about coming forward. That does not mean that every instance of unwanted attention will lead to prosecution for stalking—of course not.

Stalking is a type of harassment characterised by fixation and obsession. As hon. Members have said, the Bill will allow earlier intervention, rather than allowing that to become a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour that carries on for decades. We heard that Emily Maitlis’s stalker pursued her for more than two decades and even, disgracefully, managed to continue his behaviour from prison. There is a possibility that, if we can intervene at an earlier stage, we can stop this behaviour in its tracks, and I think that that is an important aspect of the Bill.

I pay tribute to the courage of all the victims who have come forward and spoken out. I am not talking just about celebrities; as we have heard, stalking affects people in their everyday lives, and stalking patterns of behaviour sometimes follow relatively trivial encounters. I pay particular tribute to Alexis Bowater, from my own area, for her long-standing work and her campaign for changes and increased protections.