IN this month’s column I’d like to talk about the issue of stalking.
Wednesday, April 18 was National Stalking and Harassment Day, marking the second anniversary of the launch of the National Stalking Helpline, the first dedicated information and advice service for people affected by stalking or harassment.
Although there have been a number of high-profile celebrity cases reported in the media over recent years, stalking remains a relatively unusual occurrence.
It isn’t confined to the rich and famous, however. It can happen to anyone and can cause anguish and suffering to both the victim and their family.
So what is stalking?
It can be defined as persistent and unwanted attention where the victim feels pestered and harassed.
Although stalking is not a recognised criminal offence, the police use powers under the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997 to protect people who are the focus of persistent unsociable conduct that causes them harassment, alarm or distress.
This persistent and obsessive behaviour could include being followed or watched, phone calls,e-mails, text messages, letters, or cards and gifts.
Persistent is defined in this instance as being on at least two occasions. The two occasions do not need to be the same type of harassment – one could be a phone call and the other incident could be being followed for example. But they do need to be relatively close together in terms of timescale.
The National Stalking Helpline offers information, advice and guidance for anyone affected by stalking and harassment via a telephone line (0808 802 0300), email service (firstname.lastname@example.org) and website www.stalkinghelpline.org.
They offer practical advice to people about personal safety, how to collect evidence and what to do about the different stalking behaviours – such as silent phone calls or malicious communications.
Whilst the service aims to assist anyone who has a query regarding stalking, people are generally advised to contact their local police if they feel they are being harassed and to call 999 if they feel they are in immediate danger.
INSPECTOR PAUL CROWLEY, KIDDERMINSTER POLICE