New laws giving protection to victims of stalking have come into force on UN international day for the elimination of violence against women.
The government is also providing new support to prevent domestic and sexual violence and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Two specific criminal offences of stalking have come into force in England and Wales for the first time. This is part of a package of new funds and measures to crack down on abuse leading into the 16 days of action that follow the UN international day for the elimination of violence against women.
Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne said:
“Stalking is an appalling crime that destroys lives. The impact on victims can be devastating and we are doing all we can to make sure they have the protection they need and do not have to live in fear.
“These new offences send a clear message to offenders that stalking is a serious crime and they will be brought to justice for making others’ lives a misery.”
The new stalking offences sit alongside existing offences of harassment in the protection from harassment act 1997. They will provide extra protection for victims, highlight the serious impact stalking can have on their lives, and help bring more perpetrators to justice.
The crime prevention minister also announced a package of extra support to tackle violence against women and girls. This includes:
- a £150,000 fund for Domestic Homicide Reviews to help local areas prevent future domestic violence tragedies;
- the launch of a new declaration against FGM and additional £50,000 funding to support frontline agencies tackling FGM. Ministers have signed this pocket-sized leaflet that sets out the law and aims to support families and protect those most at risk;
- the re-launch of the teenage rape prevention campaign aimed at changing attitudes and stopping young people becoming victims of rape or sexual violence;
- five new short videos that tell the moving stories of women who have been victims of violence. These will help raise awareness of the real life impact of these crimes and encourage those at risk to seek help.
The government has today also published a summary of its progress over the last year in tackling violence against women, including:
- announcing the extension of the domestic violence definition;
- the launch of the domestic violence disclosure scheme pilot (commonly known as ‘Clare’s Law);
- announcing the intention to criminalise forced marriage and breach of a forced mrriage potection order.
One in four women in the UK will be the victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime, and over the last year over 300,000 were sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped. Behind each of those statistics is a woman or child whose life has been ruined.
Victims and equalities minister Helen Grant said:
“Creating new stalking offences will ensure that victims of this heinous crime are better protected and will bring more offenders to justice.
“The government’s ambition is nothing less than ending all forms of violence against women and girls. But we must also ensure that if people’s lives are affected by crime the right kind of help or support is available.
“For the first time we have made sure nearly £40 million of central government funding is in place for organisations that do so much to help victims, often with so little. And we are changing the way we provide wider funding to ensure victims’ services are better matched to the problems faced in local communities.
“As Victims Minister I will do all I can to continue to champion justice for all victims and look forward to the appointment of the victims commissioner to help me do this.”
The government is also working to help victims around the world. A shocking one in three women internationally has been beaten or sexually abused. This abuse can stop them accessing vital health and education services and makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.
Lynne Featherstone, ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, said:
“The British government is working in over 20 countries to tackle violence against women and girls. We have already helped deliver successful programmes to respond to domestic abuse and violence in conflict, but there is still so much more to do.
“I want to use my role to ensure we challenge mindsets and allow women to live free from the threat of violence. In particular, we must all play our part to support efforts to end the horrific practice of FGM. By putting FGM on the mainstream development agenda, I want to encourage others to step in with much needed political and financial resources.”
Notes to editors:
• Jeremy Browne and Helen Grant will visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, who operate the national stalking helpline, on Monday 26 November to meet frontline workers and victims. For more information or to request to attend please contact the home office press office on 0207 035 3535.
• The UN International day for elimination of violence against women was on Sunday 25 November 2012 and is followed by 16 days of action.
• To read the summary of government progress on violence against women click here - http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/vawg-action-summary
• The videos featuring survivors’ stories can be viewed on the home office YouTube channel from Monday - www.youtube.com/user/ukhomeoffice. To request access to them in advance please contact the home office press office.
• An infographic illustrating the government’s progress on violence against women is available on the home office flickr account - http://tinyurl.com/bt6vuyh
• In addition to the government action outlined above, the crown prosecution service are today launching an evidence checklist for use by police and prosecutors in charging domestic violence cases, based on best practice from across England and Wales.
o According to the crime survey England and Wales 2010/2011 between 2.7 and 3.1 million women have experienced stalking since the age of 16.
o The two new stalking offences came into effect on Sunday 25 November 2012 as part of the protection of freedoms act 2012.
o Police and prosecutors have been given special guidance and training on the two new offences of stalking and stalking involving a fear of violence or serious distress.
o Police have also been given new powers of entry to investigate stalking offences to help secure the evidence needed to bring perpetrators to justice.
o The government funds the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to operate the national stalking helpline.
o A targeted consultation on stalking was launched by the home office on 14 November 2011 and closed on 5 February 2012. A summary of the responses is available here - www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/stalking-consultation/stalking-responses.
• Domestic Homicide Reviews
o Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) have a statutory duty to hold Domestic Homicide Reviews to ensure important lessons are learnt to hopefully prevent future tragedies and tackle domestic violence.
o The Home Office has allocated £150,000 for the 2012-13 financial year to support them.
o Grants of up to £5000 are available to CSPs conducting more than one review in the same financial year who meet the required criteria. This can be used to fund the recruitment of an external chair where necessary.
• Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
o The declaration against FGM is a pocket-sized document stating the law and potential criminal penalties for those who allow FGM to take place.
o It has been signed by Ministers and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
o Its design allows it to be discretely carried in a wallet or slipped into the back of a passport. The intention is to target families who have moved to the UK and do not want their children to undergo FGM but who may feel pressure when visiting relatives abroad. Girls aged 13 and over will also be able to use the leaflet and carry it with them when travelling abroad.
o The declaration is being piloted in the UK from today. 6,000 copies have already been ordered - including translations in French, Arabic, Swahili, Amharic, Tigrina, Urdu, Farsi, Turkish and Welsh - and will be distributed to those at risk.
o The £50,000 fund to support frontline organisations is also available from today. Organisations will be able to bid for grants of £2,000 to £5,000 to help them work with victims or prevent FGM.
o The Crown Prosecution Service has also launched the CPS action plan on FGM which aims to address the barriers to investigating cases of FGM and strengthening prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions will have oversight of this action plan.
• Teenage Rape Prevention campaign
o These compelling adverts are being shown again from 1 December to help teenagers understand what constitutes rape, sexual assault and consent.
o The campaign first ran in March and April 2012 and attracted over 370,000 visits to the campaign website www.direct.gov.uk/thisisabuse. There was a widespread positive reaction from young people.
o The latest campaign will specifically target media watched by a 13 to 18-year-old audience.
• The government has previously published an action plan ‘Call To End Violence Against Women and Girls’, that was updated in March 2012. Over half of the original action points have now been met. The action plan - that includes commitments on stalking, FGM and domestic violence - is available here www.homeoffice.gov.uk/vawg.