Stalking & Harassment
Stalking is defined as “a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress”. (CPS and Paladin Advocacy definition).
Stalking behaviours can include:
- Following a person
- Contacting, or attempting to contact a person
- Publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, or purporting to originate from a person
- Monitoring someone’s internet use, email or other electronic communication
- Loitering in a public or private place
- Interfering with property or possessions
- Watching or spying on a person
Examples of stalking can be regularly sending flowers or gifts, making unwanted or malicious communication, damaging property and physical or sexual assault. If the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing someone to feel fear, distress or anxiety then it is stalking.
The effect of stalking could restrict a person’s freedom, making them feel that they have to be careful constantly whatever they are doing.
- Studies into the relationship between stalking and homicide, where the victim is female and the perpetrator is male, show that in 71% of cases, the victim and the perpetrator were previously or were currently in an intimate relationship.
- Victims of stalking do not report until the 100th incident
- The majority of victims are female (80.4%) and the majority of perpetrators are male (70.5%)
- The Metropolitan Police Service identified that 40% of domestic homicide victims had been stalked
- 1 in 2 domestic stalkers who make a threat will act on it
- 1 in 10 stalkers, who had no previous relationship, if they make a threat will act on it
- 75% of domestic abuse stalkers will attend the work place
- 79% of domestic abuse stalkers will use work resources to target the victim.
With this in mind it is important that reports from survivors of unwanted texts and calls from abusive partners or ex-partners, should be treated seriously. Stalking and harassment is identified as a factor in domestic homicide cases. If there is stalking without violence, it does not mean that there is no impact upon the victim; the psychological trauma that is caused has a huge effect on victims. Ex intimate partner stalking is considered to be the most dangerous.
There are warning signs that a stalker might display, which are noticed by the victim; these need to be taken seriously as there is a risk that the stalker will act on threats made. Professionals need to listen to the voice of the victim and not assume that the behaviour is risk free.
Warning signs can include:
- Homicidal/Suicidal Ideation
- Threats of harm veiled or explicit
- Sense of finality
- Escalation in severity and frequency
- Deterioration in mental state of the stalker
- Disproportionate investment of time/effort/resources by the stalker – Fixation/Obsession
Where to get help
A victim (or professional on behalf of a victim) can report stalking by calling 101 and stating ‘I need to speak to an officer I am being stalked’.
Further information on stalking can be found on the websites below:
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has launched an online platform for victims of stalking, please click on the link below to access it.
Stalking Protection Orders
- Stalking Protection Orders (SPO) came into being in England and Wales, in January 2020. They are civil orders but breaching them is a criminal offence. The Orders can be applied for by the Police.
- The Stalking Protection Orders enable early Police intervention, where there is stalking. The threshold for starting criminal proceedings does not have to be met and if that threshold has been met the SPO can be used to complement the prosecution of stalking offences. SPOs can be applied for even if a prosecution is not pursued.
- The SPOs can last for a minimum of two years although this can be extended if necessary.
- The SPO prevents the suspect from contacting the victim whilst the Police investigate the stalking and or other crimes linked to the stalking such as domestic abuse.
More detailed information is available on the web pages below.
Harassment is a term used to cover 'causing alarm or distress' offences under section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and 'putting people in fear of violence' offences under section 4 of the PHA. Harassment is unwanted behaviour which is offensive or makes the someone feel afraid or fearful of violence.
Harassment can include:
- Texts, phone calls, letters, emails
- A comment or threat
- Standing outside someone’s house or driving past it
- An act of violence
- Damage to property
- Maliciously reporting someone to the Police for something that they have not done
Where to get help
Harassment is against the law and the person causing a victim to be in fear of violence should be reported to the Police. The Police can issue a Harassment Warning.
A Harassment Injunction can be applied for, usually in the County Court, to prohibit the person causing the harassment from communicating, or contacting the victim. This is usually applied for if there is no association with the person causing the harassment.