New legislation introduced by the government which makes mutual stalking a specific criminal offence has been widely welcomed by campaigners.
Mutual stalking, where two people obsess over each other to the point where they become oblivious to everything else in the universe, is reported to affect as many as 200,000 people a year. However, many believe that the true figure is much higher than this as witnesses are often reluctant to report the crime due to the culture of polite and slightly embarrassed silence which surrounds it.
"People need to forget their cultural sensitivities and report these things to the police", claims Dr Robert Stafford, an expert in relationship psychology with the Metropolitan Police. "Mutual stalking is an abhorrent crime and it needs to be stamped out before it leads to serious and tragic consequences, like marriage or having children."
In the past, police were largely powerless to stop mutual stalking and could only get involved to deal with the knock on effects, like the inevitable riot caused by a housemate's girlfriend calling round five times in one evening.
However, under the new legislation, the police now have the power of summary arrest over anyone whom they suspect to be involved in mutual stalking, including people who eat from each other's cutlery in restaurants, who walk with their hands in each other's back pockets or who take at least ten minutes to say goodbye to each other on the phone.
Those convicted of the new offence can receive a maximum six-month prison sentence and anyone convicted of the more serious offence of mutual stalking with intent to be smug, young and attractive will face a maximum jail term of five years.