Stalking is a term used to describe a particular kind of harassment. Generally, it is used to describe a long-term pattern of persistent and repeated contact with, or attempts to contact, a particular victim.Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', section 2A (3) of the PHA 1997 sets out examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking:a) following a person;b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means;c) publishing any statement or other material, i. relating or purporting to relate to a person, or ii. purporting to originate from a person;d) monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication;e) loitering in any place (whether public or private);f) interfering with any property in the possession of a person;g) watching or spying on a person.
Legal provisions on protection orders
Victims may apply for civil injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Section 3, to prevent stalking. Under theProtection from HarassmentAct, Section 5: a court sentencing someone convicted of any offence may also impose a restraining order prohibiting specified forms of behaviour which cause harassment or a fear of violence. Section 5A allows a court to make restraining orders in cases where there has been an acquittal, or a conviction has been overturned on appeal, but the court considers that an order is necessary to protect a person from harassment. Breach of a restraining order is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
Northern Ireland: The Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 allows for the general offence of harassment and the offence of putting someone in fear of violence.
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA), and Section 2A and 4A as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.S125(2) of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
Currently the law is slightly different in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but what is important is that stalking is against the law across the UK.
- Northern Ireland: current legislation in Northern Ireland already allows for prosecutions in relation to what is known as stalking. Prosecutions can be brought under harassment legislation for a number of offences.
- Scotland: theCriminal Justice and Licensing Actwas passed on June 30th 2010 and came into effect on December 13th 2010. Section 39 of this Act makes stalking a criminal offence.