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Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 12:07 UK

Berlin offers stalkers a way out

A walk-in advice centre for stalkers has opened in the German capital Berlin - the first of its kind in the country.

Stalking was made a criminal offence in Germany a year ago. More than 1,000 cases were reported in Berlin in 2007.

Five psychotherapists and social workers will dispense free advice to help stalkers kick their habit.

"Stalking is like an addiction - the perpetrators keep increasing the dose," said Wolf Ortiz-Mueller, the psychologist in charge of the centre.

The advice centre's website, www.stop-stalking-berlin.de, says the experts will not give legal advice to those who stalk.

The centre co-operates with the police, but people can seek advice there anonymously.

The aim is to explore what motivates stalking, to encourage positive behaviour and to prevent any recurrence of it, Stop-Stalking says.

"Only the stalker can stop stalking. In that sense, Stop-Stalking also considers itself a way to protect victims of stalking," it says.

Under German law, stalkers can be punished with fines or prison sentences of up to 10 years. The heaviest sentences are for cases which result in death.




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