The National Police Agency (NPA) has sent the Executive Yuan draft legislation seeking to raise the penalties for stalking and harassment, and give police the power to intervene faster after a complaint has been filed.
A surge in violent assaults by stalkers in the past few years has shown that new legal tools are needed to confront the problem, NPA officials said Saturday.
Many of the perpetrators are former boyfriends or girlfriends who stalk and harass former lovers who terminated the relationship or people who were not interested in them, the officials said.
At present, the law, including the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法), cannot adequately protect the victims of such crimes, for unless there is actual physical assault by the stalker or bodily contact, they can escape with just a light fine, the officials added.
One such case was a male student at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, surnamed Chen (陳), who had had a crush on a female student surnamed Shih (石) ever since she was a first-year high school student and had stalked her for years, they said.
Although Shih in early November 2017 had reported his behavior to a police station in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋) and asked police to stop him, Chen attacked her in a university hallway on Dec. 11, 2017, slashing her neck and shoulder with a small fruit knife. Shih was not seriously injured.
Another case cited by the NPA officials was that of a Changhua County senior-high school student surnamed Wu (吳), who attacked a student at another high school with a knife because she had rejected him when they were in junior-high school together.
The victim in that case also survived, but not everyone has been so lucky, the officials said.
Under the proposed legislation, a suspect could be investigated for stalking, making threats, physical or verbal harassment, and if the evidence supports the allegations, they could be punished for contravening the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法), the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) or the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法).
If the offender commits a similar violation within a year of repeated harassment, uttering threats, forcible confinement, assault or other actions deemed to cause the victim fear and affects their normal life, then they would be deemed to have committed the crime of “stalking and harassment” under the proposed bill.
The bill would permit police to intervene in cases where the victim’s well-being or life appears to be under threat by directly visiting the alleged perpetrator to warn them, or in cases of an emergency, they could take action to secure potential evidence, check identities and search background records.
If the proposal becomes law, police officers would be authorized to apply for restraining orders from a court, while a victim who has filed a judicial complaint, and is faced with continued stalking and harassment while their case is under investigation or within two years of a convicted offender serving their sentence, can apply directly for a restraining order.
Restraining orders could prohibit harassment, body contact, stalking, personal communications, conversing on telephones or digital devices, as well as bar the disseminating or disclosure of personal information or images, or the use of demeaning and discriminatory remarks, under the proposal.
The bill would also bar stalkers from being near “the workplace, and specific sites frequented by the victim” and forbid them from acting in a way that would violate the victim’s personal safety.
The draft calls for a maximum prison sentence of three years and a maximum fine of NT$300,000 — with an additional punishment of 1.5 times the initial term if an offender has violated a restraining order.
It also proposes authorizing the court, prosecutors or the police to place a suspect or offender under mandatory medical or psychiatric treatment, based on the offender’s mental or physical conditions.
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