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Stalking and Harassment

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What is stalking & harassment?

Harassment is unwanted behaviour from someone else that makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened.

Stalking is: ‘A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim’ Suzy Lamplugh Trust

Cyberstalkers are driven by the same intention as non-digital stalkers which is threaten or embarrass their victims. The difference is that they rely on technology such as social media, instant messaging and emails to do this. Everything on the internet can be used by cyberstalkers to make unwanted contact with their victims.

Harassment and stalking are often used as interchangeable terms. However, they relate to similar but different offences that can cause victims, their families and loved ones physical, psychological and emotional harm. Offenders can stalk or harass their victims in a number of different ways, including:

  • a text, answer phone message, letter or email
  • a comment or threat in person or online (e.g. social media or online chat rooms)
  • standing outside someone’s house or driving past it
  • an act of violence
  • damage to someone else’s property
  • maliciously and falsely reporting someone to the police without any wrongdoing

Even though the actual stalking behaviour shown by a perpetrator may vary, they are often motivated by obsession and their behaviour shares a consistent set of characteristics referred to as Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted, Repeated (FOUR).

According to recent findings from the 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales, there were over 1.47 million victims of stalking alone in the past 12 months.

Read the survey here

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  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 to include two specific offences of stalking through the insertions of sections 2A and 4A. A person convicted under either Acts may have a restraining order prohibiting the defendant from doing anything described in the order. The order can be made in addition to a custodial sentence or other sentence. The order can be useful in preventing continued stalking and harassment by defendents / perpetrators.
  • Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 stalking offences which are also racially and religiously related are covered under Part 11 schedule 9
  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998 Section 32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 provides for two racially or religiously aggravated harassment offences.
  • Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 extends the availability of restraining orders to all offences providing the court with the power to make a restraining order even when a person has been acquitted, to protect a person from ongoing stalking or harassment from the defendant.
  • Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sets out the requirements for conduct.
  • Family Law Act 1996 Part IV allows a victim to apply for an injunction through a County Court under the PHA 1997. An injuction can forbid the perpetrator from doing certain things when the police do not charge the person.
  • Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) were introduced in January 2020. They allow courts in England and Wales to move quicker to ban stalkers from contacting victims or visiting their home, place of work or study. This will grant victims more time to recover from their ordeal. In addition to banning perpetrators from approaching or contacting their victims, SPOs can also force stalkers to seek professional help.

Stalking Protection Orders issued under Stalking Protection Act 2019 can be applied for at any point not just pre-conviction to the court by the police.

UK Government: Guidance on stalking

Suzy Lamplugh Trust: Stalking Awareness courses designed for frontline practitioners across services including Police, Local Authorities, Housing, Health and Social Care as well as Corporate.

Alice Ruggles Trust provide one hour talks to half day training packages alongside other charities such as Protection Against Stalking

Safe Lives: Stalking and harassment course. One day training course to help professionals working with victims to develop a best practice response to stalking through prevention, risk assessment, safety and action planning.

Sussex Police: Stalking Awareness Week 2019 A story behind the statistics YouTube video

Useful Contacts

The National Stalking helpline 0808 802 0300 

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The Suzy Lamplugh Trust 

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Victim Support Line

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Stop Online Abuse 

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Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service

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Protection Against Stalking

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Alice Ruggles Trust

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Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

The National Stalking helpline on 0808 802 0300 can provide advice and support for victims of stalking. 

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The Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s website also provides a range of different information.

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Keeping a written record and taking as many precautions as you can. This can include limiting the amount of information data that you allow from your IT devices including a mobile phone. 

Reporting information to the Police where there is any evidence is important. They may provide you with extra suggestions for your own safety. Camera doorbells can offer an extra layer of protection, however if they are not correctly set up and with high security they may be used against a victim. There are Apps developed to allow coding with a picture to allow a person to identify where someone else is via their mobile phone, whilst they were set up for safeguarding they may be used by perpetrators – anti-virus on a mobile device should be able to identify them and block them.

There is more information and advice online from the Alice Ruggles Trust.

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