A woman who was stalked for two years by her neighbour has welcomed moves to toughen Scotland’s stalking laws and give more protection to victims.
Annette Hall, 53, backed the Stalking Protection Bill, which is being drafted by SNP MSP Rona Mackay, which would allow police to apply for court non-harassment orders, saving victims from taking legal action themselves when at their most vulnerable.
However, she said a full-scale review of police and justice staff training was needed to make sure it was correctly implemented, as her experience had shown too many flaws in the system.
Ms Hall spoke out as the Scottish Parliament prepares to debate stalking just a week after new government crime figures showed that recorded offences had more than doubled since 2012, with young women being the most likely to be targeted.
The statistics showed while 11.1 per cent of adults experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment in 2017-18, this jumped to 26 per cent of young women aged 16 to 24. In more than half of cases the stalkers were known to the victims in some way, but in 41 per cent they were not.
They also revealed the police were only informed in 9 per cent of cases.
Ms Hall said: “Stalking just isn’t taken seriously enough by police or by the justice system. They have no idea what it can do to someone. I am still suffering from post traumatic stress as a result of what happened.
“The more that can be done to support and protect victims, the better.”
Ms Hall became the victim of a stalker in 2015 when she moved to the Lanarkshire village where her elderly parents lived to care for them.
She moved into a rented house opposite William McEwan, 51, who terrorised her for two years, bombarding her with text messages, following her in his car and threatening her children and parents.
In 2017, he pleaded guilty to a series of stalking-related offences, including engaging in a course of conduct that placed her in a state of fear. He admitted demanding to know her whereabouts, repeatedly contacting her by text message and uttering threats.
McEwan was served with three non-harassment orders – one for Annette and the other two for her parents – and placed under supervision for two years.
Annette had to move house on a number of occasions and lost her job as a result.
Ms Hall said: “It took nearly two years to get to court and there were all sorts of mistakes made by the procurator fiscal service along the way because it’s over-worked and under-resourced, and all the time he was breaching bail and still following me. It’s just not taken seriously enough.”
Rona Mackay MSP said: “My bill is in the early stages but I’m determined to advance it. We will also debate stalking in Parliament, in advance of Stalking Awareness Week next week.”