Stalking destroys lives and it must be stopped
From the outset of my tenure as Minister for Justice, I have set out a clear and unambiguous message that stalking, in all its forms, is wrong and will not be tolerated.
Stalking can be psychologically and physically damaging to victims, with delusional and obsessive offenders often going to extreme lengths to contact, follow, monitor and harass their victims.
Often, the stalker is well known to the victim and the stalking behaviour began during or following the breakdown of an intimate personal relationship.
Many victims have not only had to leave their homes but their jobs and their friends behind in order to build a new life away from the stalker, and even this is no guarantee that the stalking behaviour will end.
Earlier this year I created a new specific offence of stalking, which for the first time in Northern Ireland captures conduct and acts associated with stalking behaviour.
Importantly, it focuses on recognising stalking behaviours, which are fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated.
I have now launched an awareness campaign which sends out a clear message that stalking is a crime.
The new offence applies to two or more occasions that cause a person to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress. A new offence of threatening or abusive behaviour has also been created, which can be triggered by a single incident.
The impact of the particular type of behaviour on the victim will be paramount in determining whether those offences have been committed.
Crucially, victims of stalking now have automatic eligibility for special measures assistance such as the use of live links or screens at court when giving evidence in proceedings.
I have also introduced greater penalties to reflect the serious impact that stalking has on its victims. The stalking offence will carry a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine or both.
I am most grateful to the victims who very bravely shared their personal accounts with me.
I was struck by the different ways in which stalking can occur and how certain behaviours, such as sending flowers or gifts, can take on a sinister overtone when stalking is involved.
I want to encourage anyone who experiences stalking now, or in the future, to report it to the police. I also want to spell out the devastation that this type of behaviour causes. Put simply, stalking destroys lives, it is a crime, and it must be stopped.
MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
NAOMI LONG MLA
Defending Irish identity
Anyone who comes to the north is generally impressed by the warmth of the people. This is evident in all parts of the community – Catholic, Protestant or dissenter. Part of this warmth is due to our history, our traditions and our faith. Formation of our people’s characters are heavily influenced by is education. My view on Catholic education is one of pride and admiration – not only has it given Catholics the power to rise up after years of discrimination but it has formed us to be people of joy and kindness. The curriculum is much more than obtaining grades. Woven into it is guidance on how to be kind to others and to realise our full happiness. I believe that the Catholic schools as well as the Protestant schools have succeeded in making us people of happiness. Children thrive in an environment in which there is hope and joy and this has been the success of Christian education. Unfortunately, in the media, these schools are being ever more denigrated as an unhealthy form of education. This is evident in the recent Ulster University report funded by the Integrated Education Fund. The report, backed by UNESCO, called for an end to ‘Christian focused’ religious education. I believe that parents should have the choice of integrated or Catholic education. The Integrated Education Bill in March set targets for the number of children to be educated in integrated schools – in order to do this the department will have to use positive discrimination against the faith schools. In the chamber that day TUV, DUP and UUP members spoke out against it. No nationalists were brave enough to do so. I am proud to be Irish and a Catholic and the schools have cultivated both of these important aspects of who I am. I want my grandchildren to have the opportunity of this amazing upbringing without having to be a poor relative to a child in an integrated school. Catholics in our community need to be brave in telling of the great benefits of Catholic education to counteract the ongoing narrative that it is wrong. I believe that diversity can be celebrated without it being divisive, whether that be culture, religion, faith or education. There is one party on the nationalist side who will defend equality in education and that is Aontú. It is time to support them – they will defend the Irish identity, in all its facets, that our forefathers fought and died for.
Castledawson, Co Derry
Conveniently blaming Israel
Peter Pallas – ‘Israel still in occupation’ (September 28) – ignores the true facts.
He claims that the ‘West Bank’ is recognised internationally. This is incorrect. The borders of any future ‘Palestinian’ state have yet to be decided. In fact the term West Bank was only applied in 1949 by the then occupiers, the Kingdom of Jordan, to differentiate it from the East Bank of the Jordan. They had retained it then as part of their attempt to drive the Jews in Israel into the sea.
Their occupation was brought to an end in 1967 when Israel was successful in fending of an attack by Jordan, Egypt and Syria. However it should be noted that no-one, including the ‘Palestinians’, complained about Jordan’s occupation of this area between 1949 and 1967. Israel has consistently offered land for peace in its singular effort for a two-state solution. In the wake of their victory in 1967 Israel’s efforts at a peace agreement were met by the infamous ‘three nos’ from the combined Arab front – no peace with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no negotiation with Israel.
So, to whom should Israel turn to negotiate a lasting settlement with the ‘Palestinians’? So, Mr Pallas, please stop conveniently blaming Israel. Israel has gone beyond what any party would do to resolve this issue.
ANDREW J SHAW
Silence of the sheep
An Taoiseach Mr Micheál Martin has labelled Russia as a rogue state in a very partisan manner. Successive Irish governments have actively facilitated serious breaches of international laws, including the UN Convention Against Torture, and breaches of the UN Charter, and international laws on neutrality, by allowing US military to transit through Shannon Airport. Is this not one rogue state name-calling another state as a rogue state? Because of our government’s complicity in US and Nato war crimes in the Middle East our leaders have been silent and have failed in their duties to promote international peace while serving on the UN Security Council. This is the silence of the sheep.
Castletroy, Co Limerick