Stalking can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for anyone, and can have a significant negative effect on your life. It is a serious crime and therefore should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there can be some confusion amongst the general public about what behaviour counts as stalking, especially in regards to the law. As such, even though according to the office of national statistics* there were over 25,000 reported cases for the year ending March 2020, the number of cases of stalking may be much higher than reported.
What is stalking?
Stalking is categorised as a pattern of repeated, unwanted behaviour that causes you to feel distressed or scared, or behaviour that ignores your stated boundaries. People often associate stalking with aggression, fear of violence or violence itself. However, this is not true, if you are receiving persistent unwanted attention or contact that is causing you distress but the person has never threatened you or become aggressive, this is still classed as stalking under the law.
Stalking can be perpetrated by all genders and may be a stranger or someone you know.
With the world going digital and the rise of social media, there has been an increasing number of stalking cases that have been conducted online. Stalking does not necessarily mean in a purely physical way, cyber stalking is still an offence if it causes distress.
Section 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, deals with stalking that has caused a fear or violence or serious distress. Serious distress is classed as behaviour that causes a “substantial adverse effect” on the victim’s day to day activity, which includes online behaviour.
Behaviours of stalking can include:
- Damage to property
- Unwanted contact
- Publishing material related to someone
Stalking is both a physical and psychological crime and can often have a huge emotional impact on those it affects. The psychological damage caused can lead to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia.
How can I tell if I have a stalker?
It can sometimes be hard to identify whether unwanted attention is resulting in stalking. If the attention is persistent and is making you feel uncomfortable after you have explicitly stated your wish to be left alone, then you may be dealing with stalking.
So what should you be looking out for?
Someone ignoring your boundaries may often result in constant messages or phone calls. However, it can also include unannounced visits to your home, place of business, or being repeatedly in the same place. It may also appear as an invasion of your personal space, such as unwanted touching, or gaining entry to your property without permission.
Ignoring boundaries will often extend into invasions of privacy, including asking for personal details and information from you, or those around you.
Physical intimidation or aggression
Many stalkers will try to intimidate their victims, either by following them as they go about their day to day lives, spy on their property, or monitor their movements. IN some cases, stalkers may resort to physical aggression or violence, especially if they feel their access to the victim is being reduced.
Victims may also get letters, messages and emails threatening harm to them, their friends and family and in some cases, to the perpetrator themselves if the victim does not do what they want.
Emotional aggression can manifest itself in grand gestures such as extravagant and expensive gifts or acts not in keeping with your relationship with that person. This behaviour can be extremely distressing, especially if it comes from someone that you have only met briefly or do not have a romantic relationship with.
When online there are a few signs you can be looking out for. You may have someone that repeatedly messages you or comments on your social media. You may have blocked them previously but they keep reappearing with new accounts, or you may get notifications about password attempts on any of your accounts.
One common thread between all the above is a need to know and/or control your actions or movements. Stalking can vary in degree, so if you believe you are being stalked then it is important to know what steps you can take.
What to do if you think you are being stalked
If you believe that you may be in immediate danger, please do not hesitate to ring the police on 999.
If you have concerns you may be being stalked or harassed online, then please do not hesitate to contact the police. This enables you to get a crime number and records any issues for future reference and can also help support any evidence or provide a pattern of behaviour. You can do this by ringing the non-emergency number or go to your local police station.
You also have several other options at this stage, The Stalking Protection Act 2019 introduced a new civil Stalking Protection Order (SPO) which can be sought by the police. These orders can impose prohibitions similar to those of a restraining order, and/or positive requirements on your stalker whilst the crime is being investigated. You can request a SPO from the police when you report stalking.
You can also apply for an injunction and/or damages in a civil court.
In stalking situations it is important to remember the following:
- Do not engage with your stalker, physically, verbally, or online
- Make sure to change your passwords and take as many steps as you can to reduce the amount of personal information that can be readily found online
- Speak to family and friends and let them know what is going and what they can look out for
- Let your employer or neighbours know, they may have CCTV from which you can collect evidence
- Carry a personal alarm or whistle
- Vary your routine so you are harder to find at any given time
- Keep all your doors and windows locked when you are home alone
- Consider installing a house alarm or CCTV
- Get your computer checked by a professional
By taking the measures above, you have more chance of collecting the evidence needed to not only support your claim, but to get a successful prosecution. Evidence that can be useful can include the following:
- Copies of emails or text messages
- Phone records
- A diary of incidents including the date/time/location and if applicable, any vehicle registration plates
- Any written documentation such as letters
- Online social media messages
Evidence can be an important part of the judicial process, so the more evidence you can collect, the more helpful this can be. However, stalking is a highly stressful situation and there may be times, especially in cases of online harassment, that it may be best to hire a private investigator to help.
How can a private investigator help?
A Private investigation firm can often help in cases of stalking thanks to their knowledge and experience of surveillance techniques and use of innovative technology to collect court admissible evidence.
Private investigators are experts in counter surveillance, which can help detect unlawful or unwanted monitoring. Whether it’s hidden cameras, voice recorders or covert tracking, private investigators can gain evidence of the perpetrators to help you put a stop to it. Where and if required, private detectives can also use the latest technology to block out surveillance devices so you can continue with your day-to-day life.
Private investigation can also be used in cases of cyber stalking by using the latest technology to survey and monitor a range of media. If they have permission to do so, they can access video and audio recordings, phone call records and computer activity to find out information relevant to your case.
In extreme cases, you may want to hire a private security form for close protection. Close protection security is the physical protection of client(s) from any threat of harm. This security measure is usually carried out by private investigators trained to spot suspicious activity who provide ongoing security assessments using mobile and static surveillance to ensure threat mitigation, with the aim of keeping a client safe from danger.
This surveillance technique allows for detailed monitoring and can enable a private investigative team to check whether their client is being followed and by whom. The use of technology such as cameras, infrared devices, and GPS tracking, means that more protective steps can be taken thanks to the evidence provided by continuous surveillance.
Reputation is key when choosing a private investigator to help you with a case of stalking, you want to know the investigator or firm you choose are reliable with the capabilities to get you the evidence you need and a positive outcome overall.
Look for firms like OpSec Solutions that have accreditations from organisations such as the Association of British Investigators (ABI), The UK Professional Investigators Network (UKPIN), Institute of Professional Investigators (IPI) or World Association of Professional Investigators (WAPI). This ensures that you are dealing with professionals and all work will be completed to the highest standards in confidentiality, as well as carried out both legal and ethically.
Here at OpSec Solutions we understand that no case or investigation is the same, and so we offer an in-depth consultation with you to find out the details of your case, and then put together a tailored plan of surveillance or close protection services to get you the evidence and protection you need.
From audible to digital, we use a wide range of advanced technology solutions to provide clients with usable & reliable HD footage & images, with time stamps, GPS tracking and daily logs also available. All are admissible in court.
So, if you want to know more about the surveillance services we provide for cases of stalking, or you feel you may need to use our close protection services, then please contact us today here at OpSec solutions, using our contact form on the website or call us on 0844-664-1125.
If you need any help or advice on stalking, then please contact:
National Stalking Helpline
Telephone: 0808 802 0300
Monday to Friday, 9:30am to 4pm (except Wednesday 9:30am to 8pm)*https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/stalkingfindingsfromthecrimesurveyforenglandandwales