Stalking, a new offence covers trolling?

‘Stalking’ and ‘Stalking involving a fear of violence’ have now become criminal offences under Section 111 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which adds a section 2A to the Protection From Harassment Act 1997.

From the act

(3)The following are examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking—

(a)following a person,
(b)contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means,
(c)publishing any statement or other material—

(i)relating or purporting to relate to a person, or
(ii)purporting to originate from a person,

(d)monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form     of electronic communication,
(e)loitering in any place (whether public or private),
(f)interfering with any property in the possession of a person,
(g)watching or spying on a person.

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, or a fine.

The new laws on stalking could possibly be effective for harassment by electronic means, known as trolling, as well. These offences are the final culmination of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Stalking Law Reform which reported in February 2012. They came into effect on 25 November to coincide with the international day for the elimination of violence against women and sit alongside the existing legislation.

The new offences are added in to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which in Section 1(1) states a person must not pursue a course of conduct:

which amounts to harassment of another, and
which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other

The second arm of the offence prohibits a course of conduct which causes ‘serious alarm or distress’ which has a ‘substantial adverse effect on the day-to-day activities of the victim’ and brings with it a threat of imprisonment up to five years. These are meant to highlight the importance and very serious threat of harassment and stalking.

Clare Bernal was shot dead in Harvey Nichols store in Knightsbridge in September 2005. Michael Pech began stalking her after their brief three week ‘relationship’ had ended. After he had harassed Bernal for a period of time, one day he followed her from work and blocked her getting off the train. She told him to leave her alone or she would call the police. He told her ‘if you dare report me I will kill you’ and ‘if I can’t have you, nobody will’. He was charged under section 2 of the 1997 Act and breached bail on a number of occasions. Whilst awaiting sentence he went back to Slovakia and purchased a gun. On Tuesday 13 September, Pech entered the Harvey Nicholls store, walked up behind Clare and shot her in the head four times. He then turned the gun on himself.

Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than
from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

2 responses to “Stalking, a new offence covers trolling?

  1. Alas, clauses in acts are not designed to work alone – you can’t just transplant them from one to another. For example, look at clause b) – I’d be breaking the law just by writing this!

  2. Excellent point and a good reminder to add some context. Hold. I shall update. (Very helpful, thanks.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign in with Twitter

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.