Stalking and Harassment

Stalking describes obsessive, unwanted behaviour by individuals or sometimes groups of people towards others. These behaviours can include: regularly sending gifts or flowers, malicious or unwanted communication, cyberstalking, blackmail, physical or sexual assault and damage to property or belongings. Stalking is usually a series of actions taking place over a period of time.

Side effects of stalking include:

  • Severe psychological distress
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Agraphobia
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The British Crime Survey states that within the last year 9% of women and 7% of men have been victims of stalking. Anyone can be a victim of stalking.

Stalking is not always committed by strangers, even if you know or knew your stalker it is still not acceptable.

If the behaviour is unwanted and makes you feel unsafe or causes you harassment then it is stalking and you should not have to put up with it.

Practical Information

  • Take a mobile with you when you are out and vary routines,
  • If you are going places alone, tell others where you are going and when you will be back,
  • Write down what the suspect looked or sounded like, including the clothes they wore and any distinguishing features. If you saw a vehicle record the make, model and colour and if possible try to remember the registration number,
  • Let the Police know if anyone else, perhaps your neighbours saw or heard what happened,
  • Tell neighbours, friends and colleagues what is happening and ask them to keep a record of anything they see or hear. You may also like to ask anyone who regularly visits your home e.g. your postman/milkmen to keep a lookout too,
  • Evidence from a security camera in a plain view is acceptable evidence in court. However any evidence gathered without permission eg by using a hidden video camera is not admissible,
  • Avoid confronting your stalker.

Paper Correspondence, Telephone Calls and Text Messages

  • It is important to keep envelopes, as well as the content; envelopes can also be used as evidence,
  • Try to handle items, as little as possible,
  • Record telephone conversations if you can and be sure to keep the tape,
  • Keep any stored voicemail messages or texts and write down numbers from mobile telephones,
  • Write down details of any text messages and the content of any calls, including the callers number and the time the message/ call was received. If calls are received on a landline or answer machine dial 1471 and write down the callers number/ time of call and any other details,
  • Do not tamper with or throw away the mobile telephone or SIM card,
  • Screen phone calls and don't answer any calls from the stalker,
  • If you do answer by accident, hang up immediately.

Other means of communication i.e. e-mails, social messaging sites and social media

  • Print and keep a file of copies of any emails,
  • Print and keep a file of copies of social mesaging conversations,
  • If necessary, download any stored material onto a new blank disc or CD and label each item with date and time,
  • Do not delete any relevant data,
  • Do not tamper with any computer.

Passwords

  • Dont use obvious security questions
  • Use iddferent passwords for different accounts
  • Use free downloadable password manager software that makes it easy to use a number of secure passwords

 Social network sites are not secure,  only add trusted friends and family members and ensure you use the highest privacy and security settings.

Legal Protection

The Harassment Act 1997 gives legal protection against stalking. It makes the stalking and harassment of another persons unlawful.

The aims of the act are to deal with unsocial actions which occur during a close period of time on two or more occasions. A Police warning can be issued but there are powers for the Police to arrest should this be necessary.

If anti social behaviour is also an issue to the stalking and harassment, then other powers under the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 maybe used.

It is an offence to send indecent, offensive or threatening letter or other electronic communcation to another person. This falls under the Malicious Communications Act 1998.

Under the Telecommunications Act 1984 its an offence to send an offensive or threatening telephone message.

Should you not wish to follow the criminal route a Non Molestation Order can be obtained. These can prevent someone from assaulting or harassing you. They may also prohibit them from coming within a certain distance of you or your home. Breach of an order is an arrest able offence.

Orders can be obtained via a solicitor or you can contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) who can give confidential, free legal advice and obtain injunctions within 24 hours. For more information contact: 0844 8044 999, www.ncdv.org.uk

 

 

If you are worried that someone you are afraid of may find out you have viewed this web page Womens Aid have information about how to cover your tracks!

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