Evolution Of Offence Of Stalking

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This essay aims to explain the offense of stalking briefly, how, through its evolution, it has entered law. It will also briefly discuss its definition, statistics, and efforts to improve training.

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A definition of stalking refers to a behavior that is repeated and unwanted by the victim and causes them alarm or distress. The protection of Freedoms Act 2012 created two offenses of stalking by inserting new sections 2A and 4A into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, making it a specific crime (Protection from Harassment Act 1997, 2020). It could be argued that this has happened as some viewed existing harassment laws as inadequate.

Campaigners had long claimed that dealing with stalkers under existing laws offenses were seldom recorded and therefore viewed as insufficient. The new offenses which came into force on 25 November 2012, are not retrospective and provide further options for prosecutors to consider when selecting charges. While there is no strict legal definition of ‘stalking,’ section 2A (3) of the PHA 1997 sets out examples of acts or omissions which, in certain circumstances, are ones associated with stalking. For instance, following a person, watching or spying on them, or forcing contact with the victim through any means, including social media. (‘Law to tackle stalking introduced,’ 2019). Context is essential for deciding if the offending behavior endangers the victim. Training and guidance are now available on the best practice (http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/Stalking_or_harassment_guidance_200519.pdf, 2020).

Reported cases of stalking nearly doubled from 4,500 in 2016 to 8,300 in 2017 (‘Crime in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics,’ 2019). These figures may reflect the new attitude to the specific offense of stalking and its seriousness. The Crown Prosecution Service stated that more than 743 of these cases were brought under the new legislation. They may not have previously come to court (‘The Code for Crown Prosecutors | The Crown Prosecution Service,’ 2020).

Rachel Griffin, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, stated that ‘the next steps must be to ensure that all officers are trained to ensure that the guidance in the protocols become a reality’ (Grierson, 2020).

For example, in the case of Shana Grice, she reported her ex-boyfriend five times in six months regarding incidents of offending behavior, which she viewed as stalking. She was accused of wasting police time and fined. Her ex-boyfriend, Michael Lane, later murdered her, in 2016. Following this, there were widespread calls for action to ensure victims are taken more seriously. The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigated Fourteen people in total. Two were accused of gross misconduct; another police officer faced internal misconduct proceedings. While six other force employees – three officers and three staff – have already been handed management advice and further training (‘Police officers who fined stalking victim before she was murdered face disciplinary action,’ 2020). Lane was sentenced to life with a minimum of twenty-five years in March 2017. A review report concluded that Lane has harassed twelve young girls and young women between 2006 and 2016 and was arrested over grooming claims. He was not charged, but it was noted on his arrest record. However, it was not flagged when Grice reported him for stalking (‘Murder accused ‘stalked’ ex-girlfriend,’ 2020).

Chief executive Rachel Griffin, further said: ‘Stalking is an obsession which can increase in risk and severity and needs to be addressed under an early intervention model acting on what are currently considered to be minor unrelated incidents, but which are driven by a malicious intent which could later put the victim at significant risk, could help to save lives. The charity is working with three police forces and NHS trusts to pilot intervention programs that focus on the fixation of the stalker (Grierson, 2020).

In conclusion, teaching and edifications have been implemented, and a president has now been set that victims should experience that they are taken seriously. The behavior is taken in context to each specific case.

References

  • Crime in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. (2019). Retrieved 10 December 2019, from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/crimeinenglandandwales/yearendingdec2016
  • General advice for victims | Stalking Risk Profile. (2019). Retrieved 10 December 2019, from https://www.stalkingriskprofile.com/victim-support/general-advice-for-victims
  • Grierson, J. (2020). Stalking behaviour identified in 94% of murders, study shows. Retrieved 1 January 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/24/stalking-behaviour-murders-study-shows
  • http://library.college.police.uk/docs/appref/Stalking_or_harassment_guidance_200519.pdf. (2020). 
  • https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/83271_Chapter_1.pdf. (2020). 
  • https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/living-in-fear-the-police-and-cps-response-to-harassment-and-stalking.pdf. (2019). [Ebook].
  • https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ovc/87299.pdf. (2020). 
24 May 2022

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