Election 2023: Victims' advocate Ruth Money calls timing of Govt's promise of tougher stalking legislation into question, says she doesn't 'buy it'

"Hurry up, we need action" is the message from a victims' advocate following the Government's announcement it is considering criminalising stalking if re-elected, six years after coming into power.   

On Thursday, Labour delivered a law-and-order policy announcement promising a crackdown on crime, including another 300 frontline police officers and strengthening legal protections against stalking and harassment following the murder of Farzana Yaqubi, an Auckland University of Technology student.  

But victims' advocate Ruth Money said for many, the pre-election promise is too little, too late. During an appearance on AM on Friday morning, Money said while the announcement "signals an intent", she has little hope it will get across the line quickly, if at all, if Labour wins.  

"It signals an intent, which is great, but for us in the sector we're... sad and frustrated that they've been in Government for such a long time, and we've got people on the frontline being harmed so regularly, that we need to tighten this stuff up now," she told co-host Michael O'Keeffe.   

Money also hit back at Police Minister Ginny Andersen's argument legislation hadn't been considered earlier due to the "complex" nature of stalking, which can be difficult to prove in a court of law.   

"Other jurisdictions do it successfully. The ministry has lots and lots of people doing lots and lots of research all the time: combine that with us on the frontline, who have been saying for years, 'This is a huge problem,'" Money said. "And why aren't we privileging the lived experience of people who are being stalked? It stops them living their lives... their freedoms are stopped because of this.  

"I'm sorry Ginny, but..."  

"You don't buy it?" O'Keeffe interjected, to which Money responded: "No."   

"This is costing people's lives. People are being murdered, which is the extreme, but even if we don't end up with a homicide, we have people that are terrified in their houses, unable to leave," she went on.  

"It's absolutely not good enough.  

"Criminal law does not move quick enough [to keep up] with how society is moving and how technology is moving. At least once a day I'd have a call from someone who isn't getting a response they think they deserve - we don't privilege the victim's voice. They know the reality of the behaviour they're being pursued with.    

"There's also a misunderstanding of stalking... it's persistent and terrifying behaviour. I have a lady... who's had trackers on her car, voicemails - this man keeps making different emails and Facebook profiles, emailing her work, standing outside her office. It's hard for police to act because we don't have a charge for stalking. There is a harassment law but it often isn't used. We're desperately in need of a stalking charge.   

"I feel like this is an election promise and I'm disappointed. This should've happened a long time ago... don't consider it, pass it into law - save lives.  

"Hurry up, we need action," she added.  

Responding to Money's criticism shortly after, Andersen - who appeared on AM's political panel alongside National's Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith - said Labour "will" criminalise stalking, but "we want to make sure we get it right".   

She also admitted New Zealand has fallen behind other nations in making stalking a criminal offence, such as the UK.   

"We know we're not keeping up with similar jurisdictions. We want to create an offence here in New Zealand specific to stalking," Andersen went on.   

"It's really important we engage with victims... it looks to me that a really good place to end up in would be to have a specific offence and by doing that, that would strengthen our judicial system for victims of violence and sexual violence."   

However, enacting this legislation would be unlikely to happen within the first few months if Labour is re-elected to Government, she said, adding: "It's really important that the legislation is right and it's able to be used by police to prosecute these offenders."   

When asked if National would also look to criminalise stalking if it succeeded Labour, Goldsmith gave a tentative "yes".    

"I do think we need to get onto this and we obviously find it a bit rich that after six years Labour is 'looking into it,'" he said. "I think we need to make some progress."   

Watch the video above.