Stalking and harassment
Stalking and harassment can have a devastating effect on a victim's safety, confidence, self esteem and ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Stalking is a term describing the repeated following of, communication with or other intrusions of privacy of an individual (Association of Chief Police Officers). Stalking isn’t a one-off crime, but a series of incidents - if taken in isolation, they can appear trivial. Put them together and they become far more sinister. One in 20 callers to the National stalking helpline are about a colleague or ex colleague. A stalker could be at the victims workplace, many of which are ex partners of female victims who may have also experienced domestic abuse within the relationship.
Harassment includes "alarming the person or causing the person distress" and Section 4 - "putting people in fear of violence". The term includes harassment by one or more suspects against an individual, or harassment against more than one person.
It is a criminal offence for stalking or "stalking involving fear of violence or alarm or distress" in England and Wales, along with additional related police search powers. Extra provision is available to victims in order to highlight the impact stalking can have and bring more perpetrators to justice.
The new laws carry a maximum prison sentence of six months or a £5,000 fine, but where there is fear of violence, the maximum sentence is five years or an unlimited fine. For more information about stalking see the Digital Trust website.
A guide to managing digital stalking has been created by Women’s Aid in partnership with the Network for Surviving Stalking charity and is available to download in the useful documents section.