I will back The Sun’s campaign to change stalker laws after one killed my cousin, says Tory peer

I will back The Sun's campaign to change stalker laws after one killed my cousin, says Tory peer

WHEN I was asked to back an anti-stalking law to give the police extra powers to protect victims of unwanted attention from strangers, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
It hit a poignant note for me because my cousin was ­murdered at the hands of a stalker in the late Eighties.
PA:Press Association Although it is too late for victims like Alice Ruggles, I will back The Sun’s campaign to give the police extra powers to protect victims of stalking
PA:Press Association The families of Shana Grice and Alice Ruggles have campaigned tirelessly and bravely to raise ­awareness of this sinister crime and to get SPOs on to the statute book
It seemed like a random attack but, later, the police discovered her murderer, who lived nearby, had been watching her and knew when she would be at home alone.
She was only 18 and lived with her ­family. Instead of enjoying a carefree summer after finishing her exams, she was senselessly killed.
The horror of a murder is almost too much for a family to bear. And although it was more than 30 years ago, I still think of her most days.
Now, as a mother myself, I cannot imagine how my auntie and uncle found the strength to carry on.
Later this year Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) — the idea of MP Sarah Wollaston and backed by The Sun — will come into effect and hopefully prevent more women being killed by stalkers.
Sadly, the new stalking law has come too late for Alice Ruggles, 24, who was murdered at home in Gateshead by her former boyfriend, ­soldier Trimaan Dhillon.
Her case is particularly ­disturbing. Alice had done everything ­possible to stop this man but it was not enough.
In the days before Dhillon broke into her home in 2016 and slit her throat, Alice had informed the police she was being stalked and warned them of the danger he posed.

Are you being stalked?IF you are a victim of stalking, tell a friend, secure your social media, contact the police and call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.
To support The Sun’s Stop a Stalker campaign and back the Stalking Protection Bill, please sign our petition at www.change.org/p/the-house-of-commons-stop-a-stalker.

Her case fell through the cracks in the system and officers from the Northumbria force did not act on her fears.
When I met Alice’s parents, Sue and Clive, at a meeting ahead of the new ­legislation reaching the House of Lords, they felt strongly that if an SPO had been in place, and acted on swiftly when it was breached, she would still be alive today.
The way the Ruggles and other families, such as Shana Grice’s, who have seen a loved one killed by a stalker, channelled their grief into a campaign to raise ­awareness of this sinister crime and to get SPOs on to the statute book is beyond courageous.
Murder is the ultimate escalation but there are thousands of stalking victims whose lives are made unbearable daily.
They are prisoners in their own homes. Imagine being scared when ­popping out for milk or when walking the dog.
The way the Ruggles and other families, such as Shana Grice’s, channelled their grief to raise ­awareness of this sinister crime is beyond courageous.
And now, with the rising threat of cyberbullying, that abuse invades the home, too.
SPOs will prevent stalkers from contacting victims or approaching them through those around them.
Stalkers may also be banned from ­loitering near victims’ homes or ­contacting them online from anywhere.
SPOs will force stalkers to register their name, address and any aliases they use. Plus they may have to attend ­psychiatric assessments.
Crucially, a breach of the order will be punishable by up to five years in jail.
Stalking is terrifying and more common than we think. One in five women — and one in ten men — will become a victim at some stage.
In a study of 358 homicides where a woman was killed by a man, in a huge 94 per cent of cases stalking ­preceded the killing.
On average a victim will have endured 100 incidents before reporting a stalker.
Currently, stalking victims must wait for their perpetrator to be prosecuted before protection kicks in — which can take months or even years.
The police often get offenders into court only for them to be given a lenient ­sentence.
TV host Christine Lampard was terrified to leave home after a stranger stalked her for nearly three years but he got off with a suspended sentence, which betrays a lack of understanding of the crime.
On average a victim will have endured 100 incidents before reporting a stalker.
Some police forces, such as the Met in London, Sussex, Cheshire and Gloucestershire, have accepted their past response has not been good enough. They have now set up stalking ­prevention centres aimed at helping police make the right call to protect victims quickly.
For this new law to work, police and magistrates’ courts need proper training about the seriousness of this crime.
The College Of Policing is teaching officers that their first priority is safety and to listen to the fears of victims.
Officers are being trained to look out for the four signs of stalking — fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated.
Investigators must also build up a proper case ­history.
New tips for copsTECHNOLOGY is often used as part of the stalking behaviour.
Police are now being trained NOT to advise victims to close their social media accounts, change their mobile number or to avoid using email or internet.
Instead they suggest doing the following:

Use up-to-date antivirus software.
Do not open apps, attachments or software ­programs from untrusted/unknown sources.
Use random passwords.
Tighten privacy settings/location services.
Block suspect on phone and social media.
Always keep personal information safe – see getsafeonline.org.

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Training should be compulsory in all 43 UK forces.
SPOs are by no means the final answer. More still needs to be done to raise awareness of this unacceptable crime.
I hope anyone suffering at the hands of a stalker will take some comfort — more help is on its way.

 Baroness Bertin of Battersea is a Tory peer in the House of Lords.

Getty Christine Lampard’s stalker, Christof King, avoided jail after bombarding her with abusive messages during a three-year ordeal
PA:Press Association Ex-solder Trimaan Dhillon harassed and stalked Alice Ruggles, 24, for three months before breaking into her flat and killing her
PA:Press Association Shana Grice’s jilted ex-boyfriend Michael Lane was considered ‘low risk’ when she called to report him to cops – he killed her in 2016
Facebook and Twitter can still stalk you online even if you DELETE your account – by spying on your friends


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