A former newsreader who has campaigned for changes to the law since falling victim to a stalker is celebrating a "momentous" milestone, after David Cameron announced it is to be made a specific crime.
Alexis Bowater became the chief executive of the Network for Surviving Stalking following her harrowing ordeal at the hands of Alexander Reeve four years ago. The former ITV Westcountry anchor was invited to Downing Street yesterday, where the Prime Minister met victims of stalking to mark International Women's Day. He promised new protection from the "abhorrent" crime and pledged to introduce two new offences in England and Wales – stalking, and stalking where there is a fear of violence.
Home Secretary Theresa May said police would also be given new powers of entry to investigate stalking offences. Currently, officers cannot enter a property while responding to a complaint of harassment. Ms Bowater, who lives with her family on Dartmoor, received horrific threats from her cyberstalker, who was eventually jailed in 2009. Since then she has been working to raise awareness of stalking and the inadequacies of the law in relation to the "hidden crime".
She said she had thought the "momentous" day "would never come", adding: "I'm absolutely thrilled. People at the very highest levels of power are now taking stalking seriously and sending out a firm message that this behaviour will not be tolerated. It is just what we have been working so hard towards – this excellent change will help thousands all over the country. This has been a secret, hidden crime for too long."
Mr Cameron said: "Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for the victims – breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours of the day," he said. "That is why we are explicitly criminalising stalking, to make sure that justice is done, protect the victims and show beyond doubt that stalking is a crime."
The move comes after a parliamentary inquiry called for a new offence to be brought in immediately to stop harassment and intimidation turning to murder. But MPs and peers from all parties warned that a new law alone would not be enough and that "fundamental reform" of the system was needed.