Read blogs from our Officer Trainers (stalking awareness), Roads Policing Unit, Crime Scene Investigators and our Special Constabularly.
21 April 2015
National Stalking Awareness Week - the law
Hi again, hope you’re all having a good day.
Today I'm going to talk about the specific law that covers stalking offences.
Before 1997 no specific laws existed to protect someone if they were harassed
or stalked. Both police and prosecutors had to rely on a few existing laws to
try and bring offenders to justice. That meant some offenders were charged with
‘psychological’ assault. When in court, prosecutors had to prove that the
assault caused some appreciable psychological harm, which wasn’t always easy.
Many felt that the existing laws did not protect people enough, and as a result
the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was passed.
This Act was later criticised because of its tendency to deal with more minor
incidents so on 25 November 2012, specific stalking offences were added.
• 'causing alarm or distress'
• 'putting people in fear of violence'.
These offences are subject to a course of conduct, which simply means there
must have been at least two incidents. If there haven’t been two or more
incidents already, police can consider using, where appropriate, existing
offences and/or a warning to the offender.
Harassment can mean an unwelcome verbal or written communication,
sexual harassment, racially/religiously aggravated harassment, psychological
harassment, threats and damage to property.
The new stalking offences sit on top of the two harassment offences I’ve just
mentioned. The Act now lists the following, although not exhaustive, as a
number of behaviours associated with stalking:
• following a person
• contacting or attempting to contact by any means
• publishing material relating to the victim or seemingly by
• loitering in any place
• interfering with any property in possession of someone
• watching or spying on a person
• monitoring that person using electronic communication
Importantly, the new section creates TWO offences relating to stalking. Where
stalking which by its nature causes the victim to fear violence and; when
stalking causes someone serious alarm or distress that has a substantial effect
on their day-to-day lives, for example changing jobs, changing routines, moving
house and so on.
In my next blog I’ll be providing some advice if you think you may be the
victim of a stalker.