Interpretation

Part of Stalking Protection Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:51 am on 23rd November 2018.

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Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women 11:51 am, 23rd November 2018

Very much so, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Again, I am happy to acknowledge the work, co-operation and collaboration on the Bill of Members across the House, for which I thank them. There are a number of projects, some of which I have already referred to, including in London with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, to help to intervene with perpetrators as well as to support victims. I hope that one of the most exciting aspects of the Bill is the potential for positive as well as negative requirements under the orders, such as requiring the perpetrator to seek mental health treatment if that is appropriate. I hope that the orders will bring about innovative thinking that is very specific to the person against whom the order is applied to help them to tackle their behaviour so that they do not continue to offend.

We all acknowledge that there has been a gap in the system, as was revealed in the public consultation in 2016, particularly around how to bring security to victims in the early stages of so-called stranger stalking. Early intervention is always important when tackling crime, but it is fundamentally so in the case of stalking, when apparently innocuous behaviour can often escalate into something more sinister, as hon. Members have been very good at describing today. I am delighted that this Bill will plug that gap and provide additional security to victims.

These orders will be a vital tool that the police can use to protect victims and to control the behaviour of perpetrators. As has been noted, one of their greatest virtues is their flexibility, permitting positive and negative requirements that will help to stop perpetrators from behaving as they have been. Of course, the ultimate sanction is available through criminal sanctions should people breach the terms of these orders.

Stalking can have devastating effects for women and girls; indeed, it can for men and boys as well, but we know from the evidence that the vast majority of victims are female. This measure will, I hope, be passed by the House just two days before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is on Sunday.

The Government are carrying out a whole raft of work on tackling violence against women and girls, not least by refreshing the VAWG strategy alongside introducing the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which I hope to bring to this House before not too long.

I must finish by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes for introducing the Bill, the officials who have advised me and who have worked so hard on the Bill, and hon. Members across the House for their help with the Bill, including those who served on the Bill Committee.

I finish by reflecting on the people whom this Bill seeks to protect: the victims of stalking and their families. My hon. Friends the Members for Totnes, for Harborough (Neil O'Brien), for Cheltenham and for Walsall North, as well as other Members, referred to families who have lost loved ones as a result of stalking. I have had the privilege of meeting Mr and Mrs Ruggles, Mr Gazzard and others during the passage of the Bill and through our work more generally on stalking and harassment in the Home Office. This Bill is for them. It is to protect their families, their friends, their work colleagues and so on, and it is about trying to ensure that the terrible, terrible cases of stalking that we have heard just a little about today do not happen in future, and that we keep the victims of stalking safe.