Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Officials have admitted that plans to bring in an ‘anti-stalker’ law in Scotland were greatly speeded up after the arrest of journalist Robert Green, who had travelled to Aberdeen to publicise the plight of downs syndrome girl Hollie Greig, who is alleged to have been raped by members of a paedophile gang in the Aberdeen area, identified by Ms Greig to contain members of Scotland’s legal establishment. So far the Crown Office have refused to prosecute anyone in the case, although Ms Greig has received a hefty payout from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which many now view as 'hush money'.
It transpired during the journalist's arrest that one Sheriff took out an interdict against journalist Mr Green, by using the same firm of lawyers, Glasgow based Levy McRae, who also happen to represent the Lord Advocate, also caught up in reports of Ms Greig’s allegations.
The amendment to the Criminal Licensing Bill, currently going through the Scottish parliament, was proposed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and will make it an offence to stalk a person by sending threatening e-mails, text messages or phone calls, or persistently following, pursuing or spying on them. A jail sentence should be expected if convicted under the law, according to some involved.
Police could only arrest journalist on breach of the peace, after plan to use interdict didn’t stack up. Up until the arrest of Mr Green, on February 12, the anti-stalker proposals were reportedly still in the discussion phase, however after the blaze of publicity surrounding Mr Green’s arrest, and the sizeable internet campaign which now exists to publicise Hollie Greig’s case, and Mr Green’s arrest.
Officials from the Scottish Government & Crown Office decided the issue should be acted upon now, as it is now widely known many of those identified by Ms Greig were disappointed that all Mr Green could be charged with was a breach of the peace, after an elaborate plan had been worked out to arrest Mr Green on breach of interdict which failed after it transpired no proper service had been made.
A legal source said this afternoon : “Although a law to tackle bullying is certainly needed, you can expect mission creep on this one as internal memos have already discussed using such powers against members of the media who might be a little too persistent.”
The Sunday Herald reports :
Published on 21 Feb 2010
Victims of stalkers and cyber-bullies are to be protected under a sweeping new law, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will announce today.
Prosecutors, who until now have usually charged stalkers with breach of the peace, will now be able to target harassment that occurs in private or in text messages.
Bullying through social networking sites, such as Facebook, will also be covered by the new offence of engaging in “threatening, alarming or distressing behaviour”.
The move follows a recent appeal court ruling that said there had to be a “public element” to breach of the peace.
Mr MacAskill said he was concerned this could exclude stalking and harassment carried out via telephone calls, texts, e-mail, or done in an isolated place.
He said: “Stalking can be deeply frightening for victims and we want to ensure the small minority of perpetrators who engage in this criminal activity are brought to justice.
“We want to send out the message loud and clear that if you carry out this offence, there will be no escape, there will be no wriggle room to exploit, and you will be met by the full force of the law.”
Last August, a Worcestershire teenager became the first person in the UK to be locked up for bullying through a social-networking site.
Keeley Houghton, 18, wrote on her personal page that she would kill Emily Moore, whom she had already bullied for four years while they were at school together.
She was sentenced to three months in a Young Offenders’ Institution after pleading guilty to harassment. She was also made the subject of a restraining order that banned her from contacting her victim in any way for five years.
Mr MacAskill now intends to table a Government amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill going through Holyrood, making it an offence to stalk a person by sending threatening e-mails, text messages or phone calls, or persistently following, pursuing or spying on them.
It will be an offence “to behave in such a manner that a reasonable person would be likely to fear for the safety of any person on account of the behaviour, or be alarmed or distressed by the behaviour.”
Government sources said those found guilty of the new offences should expect a jail sentence.
David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, said the new law was a “welcome addition” to the criminal justice system.