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Stalking

Understand stalking better

Stalking is often misunderstood. Stalking behaviours taken in isolation can appear innocuous but when taken together demonstrate a course of conduct intended to terrify and intimidate. Understanding stalking better is essential to challenging the stalker's behaviours and supporting victims.

Stalking is a serious criminal offence under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (Scotland) 2010. There is a wide range of behaviours that can be classed as stalking under the Act.
 

The legislation states that:

“An offence occurs when a person engages in a course of conduct on at least two separate occasions, which causes another person to feel fear or alarm, where the accused person intended, or knew or ought to have known, that their conduct would cause fear and alarm.”
 

In other words, if someone targets another person in a way that is repeated and unwanted – regardless of whether their actions are threatening or not – but where the intention or outcome is to cause distress then they could be guilty of stalking.
 

In the absence of explicit threats, individual incidents on their own, may appear harmless. But police and courts will assess them together and may conclude they form a ‘course of conduct’ that intended to cause, or resulted in, fear and alarm

Recognising the Behaviours


Stalking behaviours can often be identified by certain characteristics. A key question to ask is, are the actions of the person:
 

  • Fixated

  • Obsessive

  • Unwanted

  • Repeated?
     

Common stalking behaviours


Stalkers seek to intimidate their targets through one or more of the following:
 

  • Sending unwanted letters or cards

  • Sending unwanted emails or text messages or posts on social media sites

  • Making unwanted phone calls

  • Delivering unwanted gifts to a workplace or home

  • Waiting outside someone’s home or workplace

  • Following someone or spying on them

  • Sharing intimate pictures of them without their consent, for example by text, on a website, or on a social media site

  • Posting information publicly about someone, making public accusations or contacting someone’s employer

  • Making threats.
     

However, stalking is highly individual and certain actions may appear innocuous to others, but hold significance to both the stalker and the person they are targeting. 
 

Some stalkers will recruit other people to target their victim. Sometimes these third parties don’t understand the potential consequences, sometimes they’re manipulated into fulfilling the stalker’s wishes, sometimes they’re willing participants.
 

Cyber-stalking


Stalking can be offline, online or a mixture of both. Online stalking, also known as cyber-stalking (or technology-assisted stalking), can include:
 

  • Contacting someone through social media and messaging apps

  • Tracking social media accounts

  • Hacking into a computer, including installing tracking apps or devices

  • Taking control of someone’s social media profiles

  • Accessing a phone to view personal information

  • Making unwanted calls, sending unwanted texts or messages

  • Sharing or threatening to share photos, videos or personal information

  • Impersonating an online identity and attacking others

  • Using someone’s image online

  • Creating a website to attack someone

  • Attacking someone’s relatives online.
     

Care should always be taken in the digital world. Reduced inhibitions online have been linked to offending behaviour. People form relationships more quickly, causing them to disclose more information than they normally would, which can pose a risk if someone is being untruthful about themselves and their intentions.