What is stalking?
Stalking involves a course of conduct that causes you to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against you. It causes ‘serious alarm or distress’ which has a ‘substantial adverse effect’ on your day-to-day activities.
Stalking is abusive behaviour intended to cause harm to the victim. This harm can present in physical, emotional and behavioural ways and be difficult to withstand. There are lots of good support organisations helping victims to address these problems. Find your local help by googling. They offer lots of practical and emotional support which is a godsend for victims who may feel worthless and suicidal. Stalking also impacts on the victim’s family and friends. It shouldn’t be underestimated.
The best advice you’ll ever get is advice to take action, do something about it and get listened to.
How stalking is prosecuted
Prosecutors (those working for the CPS) have been given examples of the type of behaviours associated with stalking. The list is not exhaustive but gives an indication of the types of behaviour that may occur in a stalking offence. These are:
- following a person
- contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means
- publishing any statement or other material (i) relating or purporting to relate to a person, or (ii) purporting to originate from a person
- monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication
- loitering in any place (whether public or private)
- interfering with any property in the possession of a person
- watching or spying on a person
Stalking involves fear of violence or serious alarm or distress
Stalking can be defined as causing ‘serious alarm or distress’ which has a ‘substantial adverse effect on the day-to-day activities of the victim’. It can be a course of conduct that causes the victim to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them.
A person ought to know that their course of conduct will cause another person to fear that violence will be used against them if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct would cause such fear.
These definitions are designed to recognise the serious impact that stalking may have on victims, even where an explicit fear of violence is not created by each incident of stalking behaviour. The phrase ‘substantial adverse effect on the usual day-to-day activities’ is not defined in the Act but the Home Office considers that evidence of a substantial adverse effect when caused by the stalker would be things like:
- the victim changing their routes to work, work patterns, or employment
- the victim arranging for friends or family to pick up children from school (to avoid contact with the stalker)
- the victim putting in place additional security measures in their home
- the victim moving home
- physical or mental ill-health
- the victim’s deterioration in performance at work due to stress
- the victim stopping/or changing the way they socialise.
Since January 2020 the police can apply to the magistrate’s court for a Stalking Protection Order. The order will usually remain in force for two years. This is a civil order which if breached carries a criminal penalty of up to five years imprisonment.
How can I prove I’m being stalked?
Sometimes, even in the worst of cases, other people, including the police, do not take stalking seriously, with terrible consequences. The most important thing, if you’re being stalked, is to keep detailed notes, on every occasion, to prove what’s happened. Attach to each record anything to support what you’re saying – a photo, a video, a screenshot – anything that helps you prove it’s happened.
Find out more about how to prove stalking.
Are you being harassed instead? Visit our harassment advice page.