cyberstalking laws uk

In cases of stalking and harassment, the police should encourage the use of Victim Personal Statements (VPS) when dealing with these cases. Therefore the range of behaviour that is capable of constituting an offence under the Act is potentially very wide. These motivations will inevitably impact on the risk posed by a suspect to a victim. If the victim is reluctant to attend court, would it be in the public interest to witness summons him or her? Requests should be made in accordance with the protocol in those Areas in which it has been implemented. The purpose of the VPS statement is to: Further information can be found in Victim Personal Statements, elsewhere in the Legal Guidance. For further information see Section 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, as well extending the availability of restraining orders to all offences, provides the court with the power to make a restraining order even when a person has been acquitted, where the court considers it necessary to do so to protect a person from ongoing stalking or harassment from the defendant. Victim Support Updates in cyberstalking laws and investigation techniques have resolved many of these problems, but despite these changes, anyone grappling with a cyberstalking charge, as either a defendant or a victim, should be familiar with the most recent laws and … Stalking as a specific behaviour as opposed to harassment more generally. The effect of such behaviour is to curtail a victim's freedom, leaving them feeling that they constantly have to be careful. Section 7(3A) provides that conduct by one person shall also be taken to be conduct by another if the other has aided, abetted, counselled or procured the conduct. Prosecutors should ensure that when they are presented with a case either for charge or at court, a full risk assessment has been recently conducted by the police. For example, revealing the sexuality of a victim could place them at risk of homophobic abuse. In cases of stalking where the harassing behaviour is prolonged and targeted and the victim is considered to be at high risk, it is essential that management of the case is carefully considered. In the UK there are various laws in place to tackle the growing problems of stalking and cyberstalking. It is sometimes difficult to link the stalking behaviour of the offender to the victim without seizing the equipment used to stalk the victims. A course of conduct is the same as defined under section 7 of the PHA 1997 and referred to elsewhere in this guidance. The primary intention of this type of harassment is not generally directed at an individual but rather at members of a group. It maybe necessary to produce this information as evidence in subsequent proceedings if the defendant persists with the behaviour and denies knowledge that the victim was not encouraging his behaviour. A young woman had had a brief relationship with a man some years her senior who she had met through a dating agency. This is an important aspect of the new offence and prosecutors should consider the cumulative effect of stalking on the victim and the effect and nature of individual incidents, rather than looking at specific incidents in isolation. She set up a web-site, dedicated to her cause, containing inflammatory statements about the bank employee. Organisations providing support include the following: The National Stalking Helpline Stress can affect the quantity and quality of communication with witnesses of all ages. If a plea to harassment is offered when the defendant has been charged with stalking, as a starting point, the victim's view must be considered. which causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him or her; or, the economic well-being of the United Kingdom; or. Police officers should be reminded of this best practise and any relevant contact numbers should be included in any correspondence. Prosecutors should ensure that they have considered this in particular when considering any application for bail or when considering bail conditions. which involves harassment of two or more persons; and. More information is available in the Legal Guidance on Racist and Religious Crime. Victims' experiences of harassment and stalking may be affected by identities distinct from gender, like their ethnicity, age, sexuality, disability, immigration status, and religion or belief. he or she is present outside or in the vicinity of any premises that are used as a dwelling; he or she is there to represent to the resident or another individual or persuade the resident or another individual that he should not do something he is entitled to do; or that he or she should do something he is not under any obligation to do; the person intends his presence to amount to the harassment of, or to cause alarm or distress to the resident; or knows or ought to know that his presence is likely to do so; and. The PHA was introduced in 1997 largely to tackle stalking, though the offence of harassment extends to any form of persistent conduct which causes another alarm or distress. This may constitute an abuse of process. The victim felt distressed A few days later someone banged on her door for 5 minutes very loudly and she could hear a male laughing and saw it was Rex standing outside her door. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust Victims may also be forced to alter their lifestyle choices which can include having to move home or job, restricting their social activities or otherwise altering their routines. The suspect may displace their attention from that victim to another: for example, where the suspect is motivated to harass a member of a particular profession such as a teacher, judge or police officer, they may direct further harassment towards another member of the same profession. It is important when considering such cases to determine whether there is evidence of a clearly aggrieved party and perpetrator. history of the relationship, particularly if there has been violence in the past; previous convictions for a similar type of behaviour; victim's injuries, including psychiatric injury; if and how the offender planned the harassment; effect on any third party (spouse, partner, family, neighbours, work colleagues); any civil orders made including non-molestation orders or injunctions; likelihood of the offender offending again; status of the victim's current relationship with the offender; and. 4.2.3 Internet Service Provider’s Legal Accountability Out-dated and missing accounts, subscribers, and user information also bring a challenge for law enforcement in creating an electronic link between the suspect and the victim. The additional element in the new section 4A offence enable cases to be prosecuted when the defendant's behaviour falls short of fear of violence. We are then able to identify areas where improvements need to be made (including in relation to victim support and safety). 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. | Cohen Davis Solicitors, Remove personal information from internet, Warlies Park House, Horseshoe Hill, Upshire, Essex EN9 3SL, Support for victims of stalking and harassment. A person will commit an offence under section 42A(1) if: The purpose of this offence is to give the police the ability to deal with harassing or intimidatory behaviour by individuals towards a person in his home even after an incident has taken place. She feels very intimidated by Rex's behaviour and is starting to feel trapped in her home. In practice referrals to MARAC will often come from the police. If an earlier incident is charged under other legislation (for example, a breach of the peace or an offence contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986), and a subsequent incident establishes a course of conduct, it may be advisable to withdraw the earlier charge and to substitute a charge under the PHA, covering both incidents. In Hayes v Willoughby [2013] UKSC 17(a civil case), the issue arose as to what action could be defended on the ground that the alleged harasser was engaged in the prevention or detection of crime. In other cases, the behaviour may relate to the obsessive preoccupation with a particular cause or issue. tricking other internet users into harassing or threatening a victim. Additionally, if the prosecutor becomes aware of information that may alter the risk status of the victim, for example, information obtained at court, this should be relayed as quickly as possible to the police or Independent Domestic Violence Advisers. It is therefore important that officers are alert to the possibility that such incidents could form part of a course of conduct and to take this into account during the investigation of each incident - making whatever inquiries seem appropriate to determine whether the incident is in fact part of a course of conduct. By sharing information, agencies can establish a better picture of victims' situations and can develop responses that are tailored to the needs and goals of individual victims and their children. applications in respect to witnesses; and. In such a case, it maybe relevant to remind the police that they should inform victims that they maybe able to seek additional recourse via the civil court by making application for a non-molestation order or other injunctive relief. In such circumstances, the charging lawyer may suggest that conditions are imposed to protect the victim and to prevent further offences from being committed. Further information about restraining orders and the prosecution of breach of the orders (as well as variation) can be found in Restraining Orders , elsewhere in the Legal Guidance. Similarly, bail may be granted by the criminal courts in a way that fails to take account of any existing civil orders. A power of arrest cannot be attached to an undertaking and the court must not accept an undertaking where otherwise it would be appropriate to attach a power of arrest. This legal guidance addresses behaviour which is repeated and unwanted by the victim and which causes the victim alarm or distress. Harassment that includes one or more of the above features is not automatically stalking. There may be different motivating factors which prompt the defendant's behaviour. Risk assessment is a process which should comply with any nationally or locally agreed system (for example, relating to domestic abuse or forced marriage and honour based violence cases). In 'Study of Stalkers' (1999) Mullen, Pathe, Purcell and Stuart provided a useful classification for stalking which is now generally accepted. 2020 The victim should be encouraged to change their passwords for gaining access to personal information via the telephone or internet. In such cases, we should remind the court of its powers to control abuse of its process. This is both in terms of case building and the potential disclosure of undermining material to the defence. © Arguably, therefore, so long as the behaviour complained of ceased, even for a short period of time, and then resumed either in the same or a different form, this can form a course of conduct. The first defence is that the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime. After the MARAC meeting a plan is compiled and comprises of the actions that each organisation will be carrying out to reduce the risk to the victim. In determining whether the defendant ought to know that the course of conduct amounts to harassment, the question to be considered is whether a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other. When preparing an order, consideration should be given to specifying the period of time that it should remain in force. physical evidence such as documents, handwriting, fingerprints and sources of DNA. This could be a lawyer, a counsellor who can provide them with support when victims of cyberstalking blame themselves for the activities of the stalker or feel too embarrassed to talk about their experiences with people they know. In this circumstance the police and prosecutors could only consider a section 2 summary offence. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, s.111 created 2 new offences (inserted in PHA 1997): - Stalking involving fear of violence (s.4A(1)(b)(i) PHA 1997) OR, - Stalking involving serious alarm or distress (s.4A(1)(b)(ii) PHA 1997). The defendant Rex and his family who live down the street from her, constantly mock her at her disability. In some cases other professionals and agencies such as probation officers and mental health professionals may feed into this risk assessment process. Cyberstalking involves both a criminal offence and a civil wrongdoing. The PHA includes the following provisions: Prosecutors should note that there may be cases of stalking and harassment which may be linked with racial or religious hatred. The availability of civil proceedings does not diminish a defendant's criminal behaviour and is not therefore a reason, in itself, to discontinue. The benefits of a police notice are: However, it is important to note that issuing a police notice is not required for a prosecution to commence under the PHA 1997. The safety and needs of each victim should be assessed on an individual basis. Prosecutors should ensure that a copy of the risk assessment tool (and not just the risk assessment rating) is available within the file. Section 125(5) of the SOCPA inserted section 3A into the PHA, which permits a person who is, or may be, a victim of conduct within section 1(1A) of the PHA to apply to the High Court or County Court for an injunction. Harassment of an individual can also occur when a person is harassing others connected with the individual, knowing that this behaviour will affect their victim as well as the other people that the person appears to be targeting their actions towards. Telephone: 0808 80 10 800, Woman's Aid/Refuge The police are also encouraged to seek early consultation in cases which may be complex or involve challenging issues. In the case of Pratt v DPP [2001] EWHC 483, the Administrative Court held that two incidents almost 3 months apart were "close to the line" but nevertheless sufficient to establish a course of conduct. Under 18 U.S.C. It is imperative that we are supplied with relevant information such as a Victim Personal Statement or MG6 form by the police in good time for the sentencing hearing. A course of conduct is the same as defined under section 7 of the PHA 1997 and referred earlier in the guidance. When she terminated the liaison by text message, he refused to accept her decision. However, if a course of conduct which began prior to 25 November 2012 reflects a serious case of stalking, and there are sufficient further incidents after 25 November which can be used to establish a stalking charge, then consideration should be given to charging a stalking offence and introducing conduct prior to 25 November 2012 as Bad Character Evidence. Section 127 of the SOCPA amended section 42 of the CJPA to provide the police with an additional power to direct a person to leave the vicinity and not return within such period as a constable may specify - which can be up to 3 months. If there are only two incidents and a long period between them, the less likely it is that they will be accepted by a court as amounting to a course of conduct. Examples might include threatening emails, telephone calls, threatening letters, verbal abuse, criminal damage, etc. An example of when this power is likely to be appropriate is where there is evidence that the person whom the constable is directing to leave is also a regular protestor at particular premises and that requiring them not to return for a specified period will prevent harassment, alarm or distress being caused to the resident. A constable may also seize and retain anything for which the search has been authorised. Victims may not know the full extent of the suspect's conduct therefore it is essential that the victim is encouraged when making a statement to consider all potential lines of enquiry. The new offences which came into force on 25 November 2012, are not retrospective, and provide further options for prosecutors to consider when selecting charges. Some more complex and difficult cases may require the personal allocation of the file to a senior prosecutor who is aware of the problems that may be encountered when dealing with cases of stalking and harassment. Recording all of this information enables us to monitor our performance. There is a defence to stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, as set out in section 4 A (3), where it can be shown that the course of conduct was: (a) pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime; The Code for Crown Prosecutors also states that charges should be selected which enable clear presentation of the case. create an MG3/3A and an Action Plan with action dates; check that the reverse of the MG11 is filled in and any related MG2 is completed. (In this circumstance the police and prosecutors could only consider a section 2 summary offence). In particular, the use of the victim's mother's maiden name as a verification code for access to personal details should be discouraged. (b) the conduct was pursued under any enactment or rule of law; or The phrase "substantial adverse effect on ... usual day-to-day activities" is not defined in section 4A and thus its construction will be a matter for the courts. Section 3 of PHA makes harassment as defined in section 1 of the Act a tort for which a victim can bring legal proceedings. Published: 29 th July, 2020. statements made by the parties or witnesses; expert reports including reports compiled by CAFCASS about any children in the family; transcripts of evidence (especially if any admissions have been made); and. where the victim(s) is/are a target of a campaign involving domestic extremism (for example, animal rights extremists). As part of Police Watch, the police provide a visible police presence to both the victim and the suspect. introduced in the United Kingdom to address stalking and harassment, with the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. coordinate the timetables for proceedings; coordinate expert evidence to prevent unnecessary duplication and to ensure that experts have all available information; and. Safe information sharing also allows agencies to manage the perpetrator in ways that reduce risk. The prosecution in this case relied on a series of spontaneous outbursts of bad temper and bad behaviour, with aggression on both sides, between partners during the time they cohabited. - The charity Network for Surviving Stalking represents UK stalking victims and their families. government's services and Section 125(7) of the SOCPA amended the definition of course of conduct in section 7(3) of the PHA so that in relation to two or more persons a course of conduct means conduct on at least one occasion in relation to each person. Cases of cyberstalking often begin after a short encounter with the victim, which leave the cyberstalker feeling insecure or embarrassed. A woman walks past a man as she leaves work and recognises him as an old work colleague. For example, following a person, watching or spying on them or forcing contact with the victim through any means, including social media. The Home Office issued guidelines in relation to the stalking offences. Rather than looking at particular incidents of stalking, prosecutors should note that it is the cumulative effect of the stalking behaviour on the victim which should be assessed. ... Because Cyberstalking is such a grey area, cases are dragged out over huge lengths of time with no support or progress from the police. Further guidance can be found in the Legal Guidance on Public Protests. They can be a useful contact in complex cases. Remembering that defendants are not always identified early in proceedings in this type of offending it is essential that if such a scheme is to be considered the police ensure that the defendant is not one of those to whom disclosure is to be made. Although cyberstalking often takes place via online channels, such as social media, search engines, blogs and other online publications, cyberstalking often also involves the use the phone, letters and other traditional harassing means. Information about risk factors can be obtained from a number of sources including police information systems, victims, witnesses, other agencies and people close to the suspect and victim. information about concealing their identity. Cyberstalking Legislation. This order can be made in addition to a custodial sentence or other sentence. (c) publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person, or purporting to originate from a person, Prosecutors should note that an integral part of the stalking offence is establishing that harassment has taken place. In this case a section 2A charge is appropriate as there is a course of conduct, the course of conduct has a number of features of stalking, and although the victim is troubled by the conduct, this falls short of serious alarm or distress. The victim, although an important source of information, is just one avenue that should be explored. note details of witnesses who may have observed or heard these events; keep a record of how the defendant looked, details of their clothing or vehicle; stored messages or tape any calls made by the defendant; to use 1471 on the phone and write down details of calls received including the time received and the telephone numbers, this includes unanswered calls; and. However, there are some circumstances in which it can be useful to inform a suspect verbally and/or in writing that their alleged actions may constitute an offence under the Act. (b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means, The protocol can be found on the Ministry of Justice website at: Prosecutors should make enquiries to find out whether any of the information discussed as part of these protection arrangements are of relevance to the criminal case. She is scared that if she reports Rex to the police, his family will make more trouble for her. information from other agencies or organisations who are involved with the family. But since these laws weren’t written with cyberstalking in mind , they don’t provide the scope that is necessary for some cases. What is Sextortion? give victims an opportunity to state how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially or in any other way. A power to search for and seize computers or other electronic equipment that may have been used to commit the offence would potentially strengthen the prosecution case. (d) the victim moving home; In many cases, the conduct might appear innocent ( if it were to be taken in isolation), but when carried out repeatedly so as to amount to a course of conduct, it may then cause significant alarm, harassment or distress to the victim. Fixated Threat Assessment Centre - the new National Stalking Advocacy Service was established in the spring of 2013. Where a court has the power to make a non-molestation or occupation order, it can accept an undertaking from the respondent (for example, not to molest, not to go within a certain distance of the home, etc.). A defendant may seek to make repeated applications for variation of the restraining order so as to continue harassing the victim. The friend suggests he may be living close by but the woman says she is sure he moved away from the area years ago. Also prosecutors should be aware that restricting the suspect's ability to stalk or harass a particular victim may have unintended consequences. As a summary only offence, the section 2A offence requires an information or complaint to be laid within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose. The purpose of the order is to protect the victim (or other named person) from any future harassment or fear of violence, rather than to punish the defendant. What reasons are the defence giving for suggesting that a plea to harassment should be accepted? Harassment (section 2): a summary only offence, carrying a maximum of six months' imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine; Stalking (section 2A): a summary only offence, carrying a maximum of six months' imprisonment and /or a level 5 fine; Fear of violence (section 4): an either way offence, carrying a maximum of ten years' imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment; Stalking - involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress (section 4A): an either way offence, carrying a maximum of ten years' imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment; Breach of a civil injunction (section 3(6)): an either way offence, carrying the same penalty as for the section 4 offence; Breach of a restraining order (section 5(5)); an either way offence, carrying the same penalty as for the section 4 offence; a civil tort of harassment, created by section 3. which amounts to harassment of another; and. 27). It is not thought likely that such certificates will be issued in relation to the activities of specialist police units. It is likely that the defence may argue particular acts "associated with stalking" should not be classed as stalking but harassment and that their client is guilty of harassment, not stalking. In particular, the victim's work, home, personal lifestyle and movements (for example, due to the relationship with the victim or access to information as a result of the defendant's profession or expertise); an occupation/interests which are a source of concern (for example, access to weapons, firearms licence holder or access to confidential information); a history of misuse of drugs (prescription or other) or alcohol; and. Each case will fall to be determined on its own facts. L.R. the victim (for example, their circumstances and any particular vulnerability). Unlike the existing s.4 and the new s.4A(1)(b)(i), however, it is the cumulative effect of the stalking which is important and it does not require any particular incident in the stalking to be especially alarming or serious. A detailed statement from the victim in addition to a Victim Impact Statement should be requested from the police in order to determine the right charge. These are an opportunity to: More detailed information on procedure and joint case management can be found in the legal guidance Safeguarding Children:guidance on chidren as victims and witnesses. A strong, coordinated prosecution team is required to proactively build and manage a case. Sections 3(6) and 5(5) make it an offence for the defendant to do anything which he is prohibited from doing under an injunction issued under section 3, or a restraining order issued under section 5. previous convictions (or alternatively there may be relevant police intelligence) for violence or other offending (for example, domestic abuse, sexual violence, other violence, theft, and criminal damage); engaged in harassment on previous occasions against the victim or someone else; harmed the victim or anyone else (including family, or anyone else the victim may have had a relationship with, or stranger), physically or sexually; harmed animals - in particular harmed pets belonging to the victim or those close to the victim; breached an injunction, non-molestation order, other court order or bail conditions; encouraged other people to assist in the stalking or harassment (whether they are conscious of their involvement or not); considerable knowledge about the victim. 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