The maximum jail term a stalker can receive has doubled to 10 years – and judges have been told to take a tougher line when sentencing.

The Policing and Crime Act, which came into force on Tuesday 31st January, classes stalking alongside so-called "revenge porn" and domestic violence in gravity and the degree of misery experienced by victims.

The change in the law followed cross-party political pressure in Westminster and complaints from judges forced to hand down relatively small sentences for heinous crimes and has been welcomed by suzy Lamplugh Trust.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss also tabled new guidelines to judges, saying they should use their new powers to full effect.

But these changes in sentencing do not protect victims of stalking who are dragged through the civil or family courts on vexatious claims and where cuts to legal aid have meant stalking victims can be forced to face their stalker under cross-examination in court.

The increase in sentencing reflects a sea change in attitude towards the seriousness of stalking as a crime and we think that recognition should be echoed in the civil and family courts.

We know from callers to the National Stalking Helpline that stalkers often launch totally spurious legal proceedings in the civil and family courts to extend their abuse of their victims.

You can sign our petition here or, if you have been dragged through the courts by a stalker, you can take part in our survey here which will use to strengthen our case for a change in the law.

Facts about stalking: 

  • One in five women and one in 10 men in the UK will be victims of stalking in their lifetime
  • Since it was set up in 2002, the National Stalking Helpline has helped more than 14,000 victims
  • On average by the time they report it to police, victims will have experienced 100 incidents of stalking behaviour over months or even years
  • One in 12 people who contact the National Stalking Helpline have experienced vexatious legal complaints as part of the campaign of abuse they have experienced
  • The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 cut levels of legal aid leading to a significant rise in people having to represent themselves in the family and civil courts
  • In March 2015 Suzy Lamplugh Trust, working with Voice4Victims and Veritas Justice CIC launched the campaign at the Chambers of Richard Wilson QC and William Harbage QC. Restoring the Balance runs parallel to the campaign of the same name in Scotland, which was launched in December 2014.
  • One in 10 victims of stalking relocate to try and escape their stalker and between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of victims report physical and sexual violence
  • The current maximum jail sentence for stalking is now 10 years – the same a fraud
  • In the 12 months to June 2016 the Office for National Statistics tells us that 1,136,000 people experienced stalking in the UK. But in the same period just 4,156 cases of stalking were recorded by police