What is stalking?
There is no distinct definition of stalking as it can occur through a variety of different things, for example someone may be following someone continually, sending them text messages or calling them on the phone leaving abusive messages. Furthermore sending ‘poison-pen’ abusive letters can also fall under the definition of stalking.
Emotional stress suffered by people who are being stalked
Stalking may happen for a variety of reasons but there is one thing which is common to all cases involving stalkers and that is the emotional stress suffered by those people who are being stalked. If an individual is being stalked by another individual it can be an extremely scary thing and in some cases difficult to prove. Accordingly there are a number of steps which you should adhere to if you feel that you are being stalked.
What should I do if I fear I am being stalked?
If you fear that you are being stalked you should attempt to do the following things:
Get in contact with the local police force
Start a diary
Inform as many people around you who you are close to
Check your home security
Avoid being alone and reconsider your daily routes
Getting in contact with the local police force
Many people feel that if they are unsure whether they are being stalked and if they do not have that much information the police will not take their complaint seriously. This is incorrect – if you feel that your personal safety is at risk then your complaint will be taken seriously
Starting a diary
If you start a diary you must ensure that you record every incident in detail. You should also try and record anything which you think may be useful to the police as evidence. This is extremely important in relation to telephone messages left or letters sent – ensure that you keep hold of the evidence and get hold of as much as you can to prove that you are being stalked.
Informing people close to you
If an individual feels that they are being stalked they should ensure to inform as many people as they can around them so that other people can keep an eye out for them. People being stalked should never fear telling people through embarrassment as the more people who are aware of it the more chance there is of protecting your safety.
Check your home security
You should ensure that everything in your home which has the potential to be locked such as doors and windows are fitted with locks and that all of the keys can be accounted for.
Avoid being alone and reconsider your daily routines
You are more likely to feel safer alone and also more likely to be under threat when in the company of another. Also individuals’ daily routines are likely to be known by a stalker so it is a good idea to vary these to reduce the chance of being attacked.
Does the law provide me with any protection if I am being stalked?
The most common piece of legislation which can be used against an individual who is stalking another individual is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997
The Protection from Harassment Act can be used both in the civil and criminal courts. If you contact the police concerning an individual stalking you then they are most likely to seek a criminal conviction through the Protection from Harassment Act.
What does the Act say?
The Protection from Harassment Act makes it unlawful to pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and which the defendant knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.
When will a reasonable person know if their conduct amounts to harassment?
According to the act a person ought to know that a course of conduct amounts to harassment if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think that it amounted to harassment.
What conduct would be taken to amount to harassment?
Many types of conduct could fall within the definition of harassment. In the context of stalking the following forms of conduct would be likely to constitute harassment:
Continually following someone
Are there any other remedies which are available in relation to harassment or stalking?
The other available remedies often depend upon the circumstances of the case, for example if an abusive husband is continually stalking and harassing his ex-partner then there are remedies under the Family Law Act 1996 and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.
Furthermore if the stalking or harassment involves an anti-social element then it is likely that the civil remedy of an anti-social behavioural order can be used in line with the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003.
If you feel that you are being stalked there are various laws which can help you which are why it is imperative that you get in contact with the police as soon as possible to prevent any of this behaviour happening further.