People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann mooted the introduction of a new stalkers’ register during a debate in Stormont on Monday.
During the same debate Justice Minister Claire Sugden also said that the enhancement of a special pilot domestic violence court in Derry was one of a number of measures being used to support the predominantely women victims of abuse.
The Minister said: “We are considering a new domestic abuse offence to capture patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour.
“We are also working on enhancing the special court listing arrangements in Derry/Londonderry for domestic violence cases, building on the pilot scheme that is happening here.
“This enhancement will not only improve support services for victims but seek to change the abusive behaviour of perpetrators.”
During the course of the debate, Mr McCann suggested the only way new anti-stalking legislation could be effective would be through the establishment of an official register.
Mr McCann asked: “Will the Minister agree that, in order to be effective, the legislation that she refers to would have to include the introduction of a stalkers register in the manner of the sex offenders register; that stalking cases should be kept open; and that, given recent experience, it ought to be easier for the women victims of stalking - this is largely a gender-specific crime - to obtain legal aid?”
Ms Sugden replied: “I thank the Member for his intervention. If he would give me time to get into the depth of my speech, he would hear that I am minded to thinking in a similar way.”
Speaking after the debate, Derry Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue agreed that effective legislation is needed to combat stalking.
She said: “Stalking is a deeply insidious, invasive, psychological form of criminal abuse, with shocking side effects and consequences for victims.
“Despite that we still do not have a legal definition of stalking or effective legislation.
“Stalking is a breach of human rights and therefore undermines article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Yet here in the North it is not a specific criminal offence.
“Scottish law since 2010 has made stalking a specific criminal offence, and a priority crime. We should follow Scotland’s lead.
“Stalking is a crime which has existed for too long beyond the reach of the law in Ireland, north and south.
“This gap in our law should be closed by the Department of Justice and prioritised as an item of all island cooperation.”