Stalking And Harassment – A Practical Guide
When someone is stalking or harassing you, it can be a terrifying and distressing situation. Stalking can lead to feelings of intense isolation, making it even harder for the person who is being stalked to deal with the problem. Understanding these serious offences is the first step to getting a resolution to them.
Linda Norgate, Family Law Executive, explains just what constitutes stalking and harassment, and how to deal with it.
Stalking And Harassment – What's The Difference?
It's important to understand that stalking and harassment are not umbrella terms for the same offence, but rather separate offences.
Stalking has no strict legal definition, but the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) gives examples of such conduct. It includes a range of behaviours that when unwanted and repeated can be classed as stalking.
The behaviours include:
- Following a person
- Contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means
- Publishing a statement or any other material about an individual
- Monitoring a person using the internet or another form of electronic communication
- Loitering, the act of standing around or waiting without apparent purpose in either a public or private area.
- Interfering with the property of the other person
- Watching or spying on a person
Harassment, under the PHA, covers 'causing alarm or distress' and 'putting people in fear of violence'. Harassment is a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Examples of harassment are:
- Abusive comments or jokes
- Behaviour that makes you feel humiliated, belittled, degraded or threatened
- Creating an offensive environment
The unwanted conduct may be racially, sexually, politically or personally motivated, to name just a few.
What Can I Do?
Stalking and harassment cases are difficult to prosecute for due to their sensitive nature. They require careful handling and the constant provision of up-to-date information from the victim throughout the life of the case. For this reason, it is important to involve a legal specialist as soon as possible. If you feel your safety is at risk from a stalker, you should contact the police immediately.
Once the legal process begins, there are several legal orders at your disposal. These are designed to get you the outcome you want, but will also help you understand that it is you who is in control, not your stalker or harasser.
Keeping a diary of any occurrences with your stalker is advised. This can make sure that you document both their behaviour and the adverse effects this behaviour had on you. As mentioned above, stalking and harassment cases require a great amount of detail, so keeping a journal of everything will certainly help.
You should make notes of every time you see your stalker, or of every time your harasser interferes with you. It's also a good idea to make your family, friends and colleagues aware of the situation.
If you are receiving malicious text messages from a stalker or harasser, be sure to keep them so they can be shown to either the police or a legal professional. If you are receiving malicious phone calls, do not react to them, simply hang up the phone and record the time you received the call.
Consider Your Personal Safety
If you know you are being stalked, even after the police have been notified, be sure to avoid going to quiet, isolated places alone. Carrying a personal alarm and making sure your mobile phone is fully charged when you leave the house are also good ideas.
What Other Support Is Available?
Aside from the police and private legal services, there are several support organisations available to people who are being stalked, or believe they are being stalked, and harassed.
- National Stalking Helpline - This dedicated helpline provides information and guidance to anyone that is currently or has previously been stalked.
- Scared of Someone - If someone is pestering you or distressing you with repeated unwanted acts then this site offers information to help to discern whether or not you have a stalker.
- Paladin NSAS - (National Stalking Advocacy Service). Paladin is a trauma-informed service designed specifically for high risk victims of stalking or harassment in England and Wales. They work to ensure victims of stalking and their children are supported by a coordinated community response. Their staff consists of accredited independent stalking advocacy caseworkers.
How Simpson Millar Can Help
At Simpson Millar we have a team of specially trained Family Law
solicitors who can advise you of the best course of action in dealing with a stalker or any form of harassment
. Dealing with someone that is stalking or harassing you can be a frightening and distressing ordeal, but our specialists are on hand to help you take control of the situation and offer a range of options to help you get the result you want.
Call today on our Freephone number, or message us using the online enquiry form