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Will a new law protect people from stalking?

Stalking is a serious matter. It is unacceptable behaviour which has a real impact on someone’s life, health and ability to go about their daily life.

 

The Government have brought forward a new law to tackle this behaviour from 25 November 2012.

 

It is generally accepted that stalking includes repeated attempts to have unwanted communication or contact with someone that could be expected to cause distress and/or fear in any reasonable person.

 

Such behaviour might seem unremarkable. But in particular circumstances and with repetition, they take on a more sinister meaning. The underlying motivation is crucial

to understanding the risks that the stalker poses to a victim.

 

Unwanted communications may include telephone calls, letters, e-mails, texts, sending or leaving unsolicited materials/gifts, graffiti, and/or messages on social networking sites.

 

Unwanted intrusion can include; waiting for, spying on, approaching, accosting and going to a person’s home.

 

In addition the stalker may also order or cancel goods/services, make complaints about the person, cyberstalk through the internet, threaten the person, damage property and show violence.

 

1 in 5 people will experience stalking in the UK in their lifetime and approximately five million people experience stalking in any given year. The majority of stalkers are known to their victims either as ex-partners or acquaintances, but some people are stalked by complete strangers.

  • Around 80% of stalkers are male. However, stalkers and their victims can be of either gender.
  • Stalkers come from all backgrounds and do not form one ‘type’ and the motivation for stalking can vary.  Understanding the motivation is important when assessing the risks the stalker may pose.
  • Many victims will experience multiple, repeated stalking behaviours before they report this to the police.
  • Stalking is life changing. It is frequently injurious to victims’ psychological, physical and social functioning, irrespective of whether they are physically assaulted. The majority of stalking victims experience symptoms of traumatic stress and other forms of psychological, social damage.
  • Stalkers will involve third parties for a number of reasons- including to: upset the victim; obtain information on the victim; remove perceived obstacles between the stalker and victim, and/or to punish those perceived as helping or shielding the victim.

As from 25 November 2012, there are two new amendments to the law. The first relates to where a perpetrator pursues a course of conduct which amounts to harassment described as stalking behavior- and includes contacting/attempting to contact, publishing statements or material about the victim, monitoring the victim (including online), loitering in a public or private place, interfering with property, and watching or spying. But other behavior may also be seen as stalking.

A ‘course of conduct’ is 2 or more incidents. This offence carries a maximum prison sentence of 6 months.

The other form of stalking involves fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, which could include behaviour which causes the victim to suffer emotional or psychological trauma or have to change the way they live their life. This offence carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years

The Protection from Harassment Act can also still be used to prosecute harassment – a course of conduct which (a) amounts to harassment of another and, (b) which s/he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.

Support can be provided through:

National Stalking Helpline T: 0300 636 0300  www.stalkinghelpline.org

Email: advice@stalkinghelpline.org

Protection Against Stalking (PAS) E: info@protectionagainststalking.org

 www.protectionagainststalking.org Network for Surviving stalking (NSS)

www.nss.org.uk

 

About Paul Hooper, WCC (575 Articles)
Group Manager: Community Safety and Substance Misuse
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