Criminal law: Government urged to review cyber-stalking laws

Criminal law: Government urged to review cyber-stalking laws

A senior police officer is calling for the Home Office to review the law on cyber-stalking, saying that the current law is out-of-date and inadequate.

Greater Manchester Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan wants the Government to give police more power to seize computers used to harass victims over the internet and more power to obtain IP addresses from internet service providers.

Under the current law, the police can charge cyber-stalkers under the Protection from Harassment Act and the Malicious Communication Act.

However, Shewan argues that these laws are twelve years old and that in the age of modern technology, that is too old. The unforeseen expansion of the web and the growth of the use of the internet mean new laws are needed to tackle cyber-stalking and harassment.

In addition, it is difficult for police officers to seize computers unless they can prove there was the intention to cause fear or distress.

Shewan met with Home Office ministers in the last week of April 2011 to discuss the issue. The Home Office said it is currently investigating the situation.

Jane Harvey, from the Network for Surviving Stalking, said that in 77% of cases, victims of stalking do not report anything to the police until over 100 incidents have occurred. Therefore it is essential, she said, that when stalking is reported, it is taken seriously.

The Home Office stressed its commitment to taking cyber-stalking seriously and said it is continuing to work closely with police and charities to ensure “robust prosecutions” are taking place.

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