Action needed to protect victims of stalking in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Assembly today, Monday, 12 September 2016, debated the need for legislation to protect and safeguard victims of stalking in Northern Ireland.

Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey MLA said,

“Stalking is a recognised crime in its own right in every other region in the UK. Once again, we see the people of Northern Ireland being left behind from laws that should be protecting them.

“I am not aware of anyone being convicted of stalking in Northern Ireland simply because we have no law to cover it. It is an invisible crime. The average victim is stalked 100 times before they even report it to police, and even then the response from the police may not be what is required.

“I know this from personal experience.

“I had razor blades stuck in my car tyres, which caused the tyres to blow up after dropping my children to school.

“I decided then to report the stalking to the police, but response was “What do you want us to do about it?” I couldn’t answer their question but I didn’t report any further incidences.

“It is disappointing that in 2016, we are continuing to fail to take the crime of stalking seriously, leaving victims and their families to struggle alone until something more serious occurs. It is to our shame that we currently have no protection for safeguarding children caught up in the horror of stalking.

“Stalking has been shown to be closely linked to domestic violence and coercive control, and happen within relationships and after the relationship has ended. I have heard of women being stalked by ex-partners for up to 13 years.

“There is no onus on housing providers to move victims who are being terrorised in their own homes. Although we do have provision for harassment and intimidation under current housing provision, our current cultural understanding of what that is comes down to an orange and green issue.

“It is good that the current justice minister is minded to look at the issue.

“However it is disappointing that, despite the evidence and cross party support, she is not minded to take action at this point.”

The motion debated was:
That this Assembly notes with concern that for too long stalking has remained a hidden crime, which is not only insidious and terrifying, but that can result in psychological harm and, in the most serious of cases, murder; and calls on the Minister of Justice to examine whether the introduction of new legislation to protect and safeguard victims of stalking is needed in Northern Ireland.

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