New legislation on Stalking has taken a step closer to becoming reality after a local MLA - who was targeted by a stalker - gained support of the Justice Committee.
Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale tabled an assembly motion seeking legislation on Stalking in Northern Ireland.
Recently the DUP representative spoke out about her terrifying experience at the hands of a stalker.
The mother-of-two, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, said she had been left feeling “vulnerable and frightened” after a man began harassing her shortly after she was elected in 2011.
She wrote to the Justice Committee to thank them for their support in the debate and to ask them to now consider the gaps in legislation in Northern Ireland.
Mr Paul Frew MLA, Chairperson of the Justice Committee, has since responded and has committed to identify domestic abuse and coercive behaviour and sexual crimes and public protection arrangements as two of its key priorities during this mandate.
The committee has indicated its support for Mrs Hale as she lobby’s for a speedy progress in relation to stalking legislation for Northern Ireland and welcomes that the Justice Committee has therefore agreed to prepare an outline paper to include draft Terms of Reference for an Inquiry/Review.
Mrs Hale said: “I am pleased with the response from the Justice Committee and look forward to working with them and the Justice Minister to help bring about this much needed and very important legislation.
“It will provide us with a specific definition for Stalking and make it a specific offence, in which the perpetrator will be prosecuted.”