UK MEP Liz Lynne has called on the European Parliament to implement tougher punishment for cyber stalkers.
"The crime of cyber stalking has exploded across Europe with the growth of the internet and social networking sites. There has been recent focus on bullying on Facebook and Bebo, but that is just a tiny part of the problem,” said Lynne.
"It is not just celebrities which attract stalkers, nor is it just something that affects teenagers.”
A British Crime Survey unveiled that 1.1 million women and 900,000 men are stalked in the UK every year.
However, that figure may omit thousands of users harassed online, through email or social networking sites.
Lynne has asked the EU for tougher legislation on the matter to ensure European-wide standards on tackling stalking.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the UK is aiming to take stalking and cyber stalking in the UK more seriously and has unveiled guidance for the matter.
Official recognition of cyber stalking issue
The CPS’s community liaison director Nazir Afzal has said this guidance to prosecutors marks the first time that stalking and cyber stalking in particular has been officially recognised.
"Stalkers steal lives, that was the message I picked up from speaking to victims. Victims stop trusting those they know and every stranger is seen as a threat,” said Afzal.
"People often can’t answer the phone, receive texts or go to a familiar place without fear and trepidation. We want to give people their lives back."
Afzal said that some actions, such as sending persistent emails, would not count as cyber stalking, but evidence of a sustained campaign should be seen in the context of "a bigger picture."
While Lynne was glad the UK is taking the matter more seriously, she hopes the EU will implement similar guidance.
"In Britain, we are now more aware, but only seven out of the 27 EU member states so far recognise stalking as a crime,” said Lynne.
"We need police forces to work internationally with internet providers and phone networks where appropriate.
"We also want the European Commission to sponsor research and to share best practise in dealing with stalkers.”
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