NI Majority Supports New Law On Stalking

The majority of people in Northern Ireland would strongly support the introduction of stalking legislation, a public consultation has found.

The Department of Justice welcomed the clear message from the public but said changes in legislation will be delayed until a Northern Ireland Assembly is formed.

Former Justice Minister Claire Sugden commissioned the review into current laws in 2016. With the responses now published, the Independent MLA said it was always her intention to create a new law. Ms Sugden also expressed regret at the delay caused by almost three years of political deadlock at Stormont.

The review and public consultation considered measures to make the justice system more effective in dealing with reports of stalking behaviour and supporting the victims of stalking.

A total of 85 responses were submitted within the 12 week period, which ended in 2019.
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Analysis of the responses found clear evidence that the majority would strongly support the introduction of stalking legislation.

The Department will recommend a bill with legislative provisions to introduce a new offence of stalking to any incoming Justice Minister.

Following confirmation of public support for her proposals, Ms Sugden commented: "Stalking is psychologically damaging. The harm caused is often long term and some victims do sadly die. It takes form as a wide spectrum of behaviour. Stalkers can be obsessive ex-partners or a fixated stranger from a brief encounter with their victim. Currently, harassment law can capture some stalking behaviours, but not all and police find it difficult to gather evidence to prove this crime. A new specific, stalking law will hopefully target predators.

"I am pleased the public supports the new law, but like many other issues, we need a government and functioning Assembly to do so. This will only happen when the main two parties decide they want to work together again. Shameful that political expediency is more important than people's lives."


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