News that as of today stalking will be a criminal offence has been welcomed by the family of Jeanette Goodwin who was murdered by her ex-partner in Southend.
Jim Bowley, Jeanette’s brother, says the change in law will give victims the breathing space to move forward, but regrets it was not done sooner.
For several months leading up to her murder Jeanette had been stalked by her ex-partner Martin Bunch who refused to accept their relationship was over. The mother of three had made seven reports of harassment and domestic violence to police from January 2011 up until her death on 24th July 2011. Bunch eventually managed to break into her home where he stabbed her more than thirty times.
According to the Home Office, around one in six women and one in eleven men are affected by stalking, but conviction rates remain low at around 2%. Under the new legislation a charge of stalking will carry a maximum six month sentence, but where there is fear of violence or serious alarm and distress that will increase to a maximum of five years.
Diana Barran from CAADA (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse) says the new laws will provide greater legal protection for victims and greater clarity for police and professionals over stalking behaviour.
Stalking has already been criminalised in Scotland since 2010. Its introduction to England and Wales two years later, will now offer future victims a reassurance that the offence will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.