cyberstalking laws uk

Stalking and harassment have always existed, but since the growth of the internet, it has become easier for those who carry it out to do so either as an extension of their existing activities, or purely online. The original impetus to introduce the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was to deal with the problem of stalking. Also, a victim may be reporting a single act and no offence has occurred. They are the resident; a person in the resident's dwelling, for example, a child or partner; and a person in another dwelling in the vicinity of the resident's dwelling, i.e. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal against conviction on the basis that the trial judge had not directed the jury that the course of conduct had to amount to harassment and that the facts of the case, largely undisputed by the defendant, did not establish a nexus between the incidents. There may be different motivating factors which prompt the defendant's behaviour. Better state and federal laws will give the authorities the necessary tools to control and combat cyberstalking [12]. 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. Such assessments are only likely to be available if ordered by the court. More information is available in the Legal Guidance on Racist and Religious Crime. the transcript of the judgment (where findings have been made or not made). The 6 months' limitation should run from the last date of the course of conduct alleged. 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. Prosecutors should note that the list in s.2A(3) is not exhaustive and it will be open to courts to consider other acts by a defendant and conclude that those acts constitute stalking even if they are not on the s.2A(3) list. This legal guidance addresses behaviour which is repeated and unwanted by the victim and which causes the victim alarm or distress. 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. This most obviously applies to companies acting within their legal entitlement, for example, a Building Society manager warning in writing of repossession proceedings, because of default in mortgage payments, followed by repossession taking place. What explanation can be given to a victim who felt he/she had been stalked but a plea to harassment was accepted? dog walking, sports facilities and playgrounds; and. 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. (In this circumstance the police and prosecutors could only consider a section 2 summary offence). When a police notice has been issued, the officer should record that fact and the nature of the notice (for example, allegations made), and offer it to the recipient to sign, indicating receipt and understanding. Early consultation with the allocated police officer and contact with the specified Witness Care Unit are also important in ensuring that the risks in the case are understood, as well ensuring that any further offending reported is addressed as quickly as possible, as this behaviour can dramatically increase the risk for the victim. In the UK there are various laws in place to tackle the growing problems of stalking and cyberstalking. There are two ways of committing this offence: First, a course of conduct that amounts to stalking and causes the victim to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them (which is similar to the existing section 4 offence). In addition, there must be evidence to prove the conduct was targeted at an individual, was calculated to alarm or cause him/her distress, and was oppressive and unreasonable. 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. Cyberstalking is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Prosecutors should consider the full ambit of criminal offending when drafting charges. More information can be found at: The police are also encouraged to seek early consultation in cases which may be complex or involve challenging issues. This record could also be kept electronically on a computer and may be automatically timed. Similarly, where a defendant has been cautioned, care should be taken before going behind the caution and charging that incident as part of a course of conduct. Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases on the links to books on this page. It assesses and manages the risk posed by people who engage in bizarre communications or contact prominent people in public life and who additionally pose a risk to the public, the prominent person and themselves. Where there is a choice of charges between harassment and stalking, prosecutors should consider the following principles before selecting correct charge: Each case needs to be considered on its own facts and its own merits, but where the course of conduct involves significant elements of stalking behaviour, a charge under section 2A or section 4A should be the starting point. Harassment - section 4, the wording must contain "on each occasion", as specified in the required elements of this offence. 4/5 Buckingham Gate 580 and R v Patel [2005] 1 Cr. A strong, coordinated prosecution team is required to proactively build and manage a case. Cocoon Watch should not be implemented where there is any reason to suspect that neighbours and/or family may be party to the stalking or harassment, or if the victim might feel further endangered by neighbours being informed. This section covers the criminal legislation most relevant to cases of stalking and harassment. What can the victim do about cyberstalking. 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. Cases involving stalking and harassment can sometimes mean that the victim is particularly vulnerable due to the determined and persistent nature of the suspect's behaviour. Whenever a case of stalking and harassment falls within the definition of domestic violence the appropriate guidance should be followed. 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. The Code for Crown Prosecutors is a public document, issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions that sets out the general principles Crown Prosecutors should follow when they make decisions on cases. But since these laws weren’t written with cyberstalking in mind , they don’t provide the scope that is necessary for some cases. In particular, the use of the victim's mother's maiden name as a verification code for access to personal details should be discouraged. These cases, together with cases of honour based violence, forced marriage and child abuse should be identified and cross-flagged to reflect this. In exceptional circumstances, a written notice may be the only means available to warn the suspect and, if this is the case, consideration should be given to using a personal delivery service or a form of postal delivery that requires a signature. However, the guidelines ( issued by the Home Office suggest that evidence of a substantial adverse effect may include the following: (a) the victim changing their routes to work, work patterns, or employment; Detective Superintendent Jon Gilbert, who leads Bedfordshire Police's cybercrime team, says there are several different laws that the police use to deal with cyber-stalking. The crucial difference between the offence under section 4 Harassment and the new offence under section 4A Stalking is that the latter introduces an additional element, namely that the defendant's offending behaviour causes a victim "serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse effect on their usual day-to-day activities".Whereas in previous incidents and prior to the stalking legislation, if there was insufficient evidence to prove " fear of violence", the only option was to prefer a summary charge. Cases of cyberstalking often begin after a short encounter with the victim, which leave the cyberstalker feeling insecure or embarrassed. In other cases, the behaviour may relate to the obsessive preoccupation with a particular cause or issue. to locate personal information about a victim; as a means of surveillance of the victim; identity theft such as subscribing the victim to services, purchasing goods and services in their name; electronic sabotage such as spamming and sending viruses; or. It may often not be immediately apparent that separate incidents are connected as a course of conduct. Telephone: 0845 30 30 Victims should be advised not to dispose of any personal information or correspondence via a dustbin. The agencies invited to be part of the MARAC process should be any that have a role to play in the victim's safety. Cases involving stalking and harassment can be difficult to prosecute, and because of their nature are likely to require sensitive handling, especially with regard to victim care. 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. - Helpline for anyone affected by crime. It is sometimes difficult to link the stalking behaviour of the offender to the victim without seizing the equipment used to stalk the victims. In 'Study of Stalkers' (1999) Mullen, Pathe, Purcell and Stuart provided a useful classification for stalking which is now generally accepted. In some situations, police officers might visit to check on the safety of the victim. The constable issuing the direction has discretion in deciding how long a person should be required not to return. that the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime; that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment; or. Cyberstalking. Whether the defence has offered a plea that is in accordance with the evidence available to the prosecution; Have there been any changes in circumstances since the decision to charge stalking was made? This is particularly so in environments where there are armed police officers. This information is not linked to the criminal case. While some countries apply older laws, others have enacted specific cyberstalking laws. 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. They should be asked to ask them to log any suspect behaviour. All rights reserved. Further information can be found at: In this legal guidance, the term harassment is used to cover the 'causing alarm or distress' offences under section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as amended (PHA), and 'putting people in fear of violence' offences under section 4 of the PHA. Laws governing stalking, harassment, and slander, as well as specific “cyberstalking” laws, vary by state, and might include a series of acts that might not be considered illegal under other circumstances. 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. If cyberstalking lasts for longer than several months, the victim should seek legal advice to help him or her understand their legal position and to install confidence in them to take the appropriate steps to bring the cyberstalking to an end. Primary consideration should be given, when drafting charges, to ensuring that the court has adequate sentencing powers to deal with a defendant in light of the offending behaviour. Three defences are available to the section 2 offence: The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was intially introduced as a Stalking Bill and was always intended to tackle all forms of harassment including stalking. Stalking - harassment which involves a course of conduct that amounts to, Stalking - s.4A (1) PHA 1997 which can be. For further information see Restraining Orders - Section 12 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, elsewhere in the Legal Guidance. Prosecutors should routinely make enquiries to see if there are any concurrent civil proceedings. Police officers will have a power of entry in relation to the new offence of stalking under section 2A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. This is to ensure that their safety and support needs are addressed throughout the criminal case (and sometimes beyond) and to reduce the risk they face as a result of the offending. When she terminated the liaison by text message, he refused to accept her decision. The offence of breach of a non-molestation order was introduced following concern that the available civil procedure was ineffective in preventing and deterring domestic violence. Orders available include non-molestation and occupation orders. NSS helps run the National Stalking Helpline. The charging lawyer should ensure their action plan includes an action for the Custody Officer to liaise with the victim prior to the imposition of any conditional bail. However, no power of arrest can be attached to this civil order and, in order to enforce it though the civil courts, the victim will need to return to court to apply for a warrant of arrest. This guidance explains: 1. For example, by the victim emailing the document to their own email address as each entry is included. not to use a different name or to change names without immediately notifying the court and/or the police. (e) physical or mental ill-health; He repeatedly telephoned her, stating that they were destined to be together and insisting she should marry him. Author: Helen Burrows. The law which prohibits cyberstalking can be found in section 2A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The list is not an exhaustive one but gives an indication of the types of behaviour that may be displayed in a stalking offence. Upon receipt of an expedited report or evidential file, a prosecutor should: It is important to note that matters said to constitute the course of conduct amounting to harassment must be properly particularised in the information laid or in the indictment (C v CPS 2008 EWHC 148). Email Guidance on Section 1 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004: Breach of a civil non-molestation order is available elsewhere in the Legal Guidance. A prosecution under section 2 or 4 requires proof of harassment. Full assessment of risk, and formulation of plans for a defendant's management post conviction, are likely to require assessment by a psychiatrist or a psychologist using specialist risk assessment tools, such as the Stalking Risk Profile. The defendant Rex and his family who live down the street from her, constantly mock her at her disability. The order can be especially useful in preventing continued stalking and harassment by defendants, including those who are given sentences of imprisonment. Harassment that includes one or more of the above features is not automatically stalking. 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. The restraining order is imposed at the time of sentence. Closely connected groups may also be subjected to 'collective' harassment. 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. Factors relating to the suspect may require law enforcement measures or other police action (for example, revocation of a firearm's licence). , This could include harassment of a person in the public eye, but is not restricted to this; where the identity of the suspect is not known. The police or probation frequently takes the lead role. The woman's friend is visiting and says that she passed a strange man sitting in a car outside her house. In this circumstance the police and prosecutors could only consider a section 2 summary offence. - This organisation aims to create a safer society and enable everyone to live safer lives. 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. It is possible that it could be raised as by individuals such as investigative journalists or Neighbourhood Watch members who claim that their activities are for the purpose of detecting or preventing crime. Victims who experience harassment can seek a restraining order, the breach of which maybe a criminal offence. Section 3 of PHA makes harassment as defined in section 1 of the Act a tort for which a victim can bring legal proceedings. This should provide professional support to all those at risk, reducing the risk of harm and repeat victimisation. This could include an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser or indeed the national helpline or specific national charities which have been established to assist victims of this type of behaviour. Restraining orders should be drafted to meet the particular risks presented in each case and should not be a repetition of routine clauses. Section 126 of the SOCPA amended the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001(CJPA) and created a new offence of causing harassment, alarm or distress to a person in his or her home. App. This means that companies now have the option to take out injunctions against people harassing their employees in the name of the company and will not have to take action in the name of a particular employee. Prosecutors may need to obtain information or documents that pertain to family proceedings. It is envisaged that the additional element in the new section 4A offence will enable cases to be prosecuted when the defendant's behaviour falls short of fear of violence. As a result of his behaviour the victim moved out of her address, changed her mobile telephone number and moved to another job. Further guidance can be found in the Legal Guidance on Public Protests. Safe information sharing also allows agencies to manage the perpetrator in ways that reduce risk. This could be as a result of a rogue telephone call by the suspect the outcome of which is ongoing harassment; and. 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. This is sometimes known as 'cyberstalking'. The fact that civil proceedings are ongoing does not mean that criminal proceedings cannot be commenced or continued. The power of entry is exercisable by warrant and will allow the police to enter and search premises if there are reasonable grounds for believing that an offence under new section 2A has been or is being committed. Cyber / online crime, Hate crime, Domestic abuse, Sexual offences, The CPS Areas, CPS Direct, Central Casework Divisions and Proceeds of Crime, Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, Section 4A (1) (b) (i)  - Putting People in Fear of Violence, Defence - Putting People in Fear of Violence - section 4, Section 4A (1) (b) (ii) offence - Stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, Incidents before commencement of Stalking legislation, Secretary of State's Certificate - section 12, Pleas to Harassment when Stalking has been charged, Defence to Breach of Criminal or Civil Order, Impact and Dynamics of Stalking and Harassment, Stalking and Harassment and the CPS Violence Against Women Strategy, CPS Employee's Guide on Violence against Women and Girls, Identification, Assessing and Managing Risk, Police Information Notices to Suspects about potential offences under the PHA, Obtaining and using documents and information from family proceedings, Protocol on the appropriate handling of stalking offences between the Crown Prosecution Service & NPCC, CPS Policy on prosecuting cases of Domestic Violence, Legal Guidance on Racist and Religious Crime,,,, Violence Against Women and Girls Guidance, Prostitution and Exploitation of Prostitution,, Safeguarding Children:guidance on chidren as victims and witnesses, Restraining Orders - Section 12 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, CPS North East - Domestic abuse prosecutions - November 2020, Stalking analysis reveals domestic abuse link, CPS North East - Domestic abuse prosecutions - October 2020, Domestic abuse convictions - September 2020, Domestic abuse and stalking prosecutions - August 2020, CPS North East - Successful Domestic Abuse Prosecutions from July, Successful domestic abuse prosecutions during the COVID-19 pandemic: CPS West Midlands, Merseyside man jailed for setting fire to phone mast, CPS Response to the HMICFRS/HMCPSI Joint Thematic Inspection Report in Relation to Domestic Abuse Evidence-Led Prosecutions, Bar/CPS Standard for Communication between Victim, Witness and the Prosecuting Advocate, Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship, Non Accidental Head Injury Cases (NAHI, formerly referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome [SBS]) - Prosecution Approach, Domestic Abuse Referrals from the Police to CPS – Troubleshooting Guide, Domestic Abuse Guidelines for Prosecutors, Violence against Women and Girls Guidance, Child Abuse (non-sexual) - prosecution guidance, Shaken Baby Syndrome and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 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. Cases involving stalking and harassment can be difficult to prosecute, and because of their nature are likely to require sensitive handling, especially with regard to victim care. If the suspect is able to show that any of the defences to harassment under section 1(3) of the PHA are made out, he or she can not be guilty of stalking as without harassment there can be no conviction for stalking. the presence of the defendant amounts to the harassment of, or causes alarm or distress to the resident, a person in the resident's dwelling, or a person in another dwelling in the vicinity of the resident's dwelling; or is likely to result in the harassment of, or cause alarm or distress of any such person. There may be instances, for example, where the case also includes racism, homophobia or rape. The sole defence to a breach of a criminal or a civil order is that the defendant had a reasonable excuse. These could include: Opportunity should be taken to remind officers to signpost victims, where appropriate, through to a specific support agency. This guidance assists our prosecutors when they are making decisions about cases. She explains that she bumped in to him at work a couple of weeks ago and since then has seen him 4 or 5 times standing outside her house in the evening and watching her. (b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means, The victim, although an important source of information, is just one avenue that should be explored. victims should also not to be afraid to inform neighbours, friends and work colleagues (unless they suspect that the individual is indeed the suspect in the case). It is essential that this is kept confidential and should not be disclosed to the defendant as to do so could cause extreme danger to the victim or the victim's children or family. Previously, if a person breached their non-molestation order, he or she could only be arrested for a civil contempt of court if a power of arrest was attached to the order. Recording all of this information enables us to monitor our performance. Harassing the victim and any other way pursuit of the restraining order is that the defendant and the suspect do! Repeat reports to the police it would be more appropriate for the magistrates to decide.. If the undertaking is breached, it can be best described as stalking making decisions about cases to. To: further information can be made without notice who are victims of cyberstalking often begin after short... Time that it should also be subjected to 'collective ' harassment again this allows a application... 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