For seven years, Dr Eleanor Aston, was stalked by Raymond Knight, a former patient. Imposing the maximum tariff of five years’ imprisonment in May 2015, Judge Tabor, QC, made it clear in court that he would have given Knight a longer sentence if it had been available. He described the convicted man as a: “significant risk,” and was in no doubt that Knight posed a future risk to Dr Aston.
Now, MPs Alex Chalk and Richard Graham are championing the campaign to extend the maximum penalty for a 4A (Protection from Harassment Act 1997) stalking offence from five to 10 years. The suggested increase comes as part of their joint report outlining the case for Government to allow greater flexibility in sentencing those convicted of stalking.
According to Paladin, a national stalking charity, 42 per cent of offenders convicted and subject to a restraining order, have committed further offences. The charity’s research, claim the MPs, shows that current sentences are not sufficient. They believe that tougher sentencing is needed in order to provide victims with more safety, increase trust in the judicial system, while ensuring that convicted stalkers receive enough time in prison to ‘break’ their often, obsessive behaviour and undergo effective rehabilitation.
MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk, said: “Stalking destroys lives, and yet the maximum sentence for this offence is just five years’ imprisonment – less than you can get for stealing a Mars Bar.” As part of their research, he and Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester met with victims and their families.
Mr Graham, who confirmed that in some cases lives had been destroyed by stalking said: “We’re asking the Government to support victims of this horrendous crime better.” Mr Chalk added: “It’s time for the punishment to fit the crime.”
Dr Aston, who was present at the launch of the report, fully supports the two MPs, whom she describes as “committed.” She said: “They’re determined to do something to help, they’ve done this report together and they aim to change the law. I totally support that.”
Campaigning for the amendment to stalking legislation to be considered for any future Criminal Justice Bill, the MPs are also supported by Paladin. Founder and Director of the charity, Laura Richards, advocated: “Stalking is both insidious and terrifying.” Describing how most stalking campaigns last years, she said: “Stalking is about fixation and obsession.” Paladin who has been campaigning for sentencing guidelines – now in development – would also like to see extended sentences for stalking because the charity firmly believes that the recommendations put forward by Mr Chalk and Mr Graham will save lives and money. Laura Richards commented: “Sentences must reflect the serious nature of the crime and also allow for appropriate treatment to take place.”
Speaking in support of the report, Retired Circuit Judge, Charles Wade said: “This is a serious piece of work – stalking is a very serious issue and I’m pleased that ministers are engaging with Richard and Alex on the issue.”
To read more about this vital campaign, please visit: http://richardgraham.org/gloucester-and-cheltenham-mps-call-for-longer-max-stalking-sentence/