The term 'Stalking’ occurs frequently in media stories but it is a phrase which is often used rather loosely. The law however believes in precision and it is often difficult to define with precision just what exactly stalking is and when, otherwise lawful behaviour, crosses the line and becomes stalking. This page is divided into the following topics whilst 'Cyberstalking' is considered in the Malicious Communications Page.
(To return to here at any time click on the "Stalking" button to the left)

Stalking and British Law
Foreign Stalking Laws
Articles and Reports on Stalking
Dealing with Stalking
The Stalkers Bill 1996

o Stalking o
(British Law)

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997. was passed following great public and political concern about the problem of stalking. It was considered that the existing civil and criminal law did not deal with problem of stalking appropriately and new legislation was therefore required. It is often referred to in the media as 'The Stalking Law'. The Act creates two criminal offences and allows Civil Courts to make Injunctions and award damages. It is discussed in more detail in the Protection from Harassment Act section of this site.

Though the 1997 Act deals with all types of harassment and not just stalking it is the primary legislation that is used in stalking cases. It is the stalking background to the act which explains why the act requires 2 incidents of harassment not one. It is also the reason why the legal test as to whether a person is guilty of harassment is based on the judgement of ‘a reasonable person’ unlike most criminal offences which require some degree of intent before an offence is committed. Many stalkers claim that they have no intention of harassing their victim indeed many believe that they are in love even if that love is totally unwelcome and unreciprocated.

The Act however is not the only part of the law dealing with stalkers. Injunctions can also be granted in common law on the basis of principles set out in the case of Burris v Azadani [1995] 1 WLR 1372 . Where, as is often the case, Stalkers and their victims are former partners or people who have lived together or are related then the victim can apply to the courts for a Non Molestation Order under the provisions of the Family Law Act 1996. Courts can attach a power of arrest to such orders which authorises the Police to arrest the defendant if he, or she, breaches the order.

There are also a range of possible Criminal Offences which can be committed by Stalkers and in the 1997 case of R v Burstow & R v Ireland the House of Lords decided that stalkers who cause psychological injury to their victims can be prosecuted for the criminal offences of causing actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm even where they have not physically attacked their victim. A new, and potentially important offence in cases involving stalking is the offence of harassment of a person at their home. This offence authorises Police officers to direct someone, who is harassing another person in their home, to leave the area and to arrest them if they disobey the direction.

o Stalking o
(Foreign Stalking Laws)

Foreign Stalking Laws deal with the problem of stalking in a variety of ways. Stalking legislation in most countries does however tend to be far more tightly drawn and specific than is the case with the Protection from Harassment Act. Invariably Stalking is defined by a list of prohibited activities and there is usually a requirement that the Stalkers activities should present a credible threat and not merely be harassing. It is also common for stalking to be considered as 'aggravated' and to attract a heavier sentence when the stalker is acting in breach of any form of court order. For further information go to

o Stalking o
(Articles and Reports on Stalking )

(Some of these reports are marked as "PDF" and you need to have, or to install,
Adobe Acrobat Viewer to read them. PDF documents can be slow to download but let me know if you have difficulties with any particular document)

For an analysis of how the law dealt with stalking prior to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 read
'Look Who's Stalking' by Michael Allen 4 WebJCLI 1996, and
'In Defence of Ireland' David Ormerod and Michael Gunn 3 WebJCLI 1997

In October 2000 the Home Office issued a Research Study on The Extent and Nature Of Stalking (PDF) which provides the first systematic review of the problem in Britain. A summary (PDF) was also published.

Stalking. An Investigators Guide (PDF) is produced by the Metropolitan Police

In 2000 the Scottish Executive issued a Consultation Paper on Stalking and Harassment which examined the various ways in which Stalking was currently dealt with under Scots law and discussed possible options for improving the law in this area. The Scottish Parliament has issued a similar Research Note on Stalking and Harassment in Scotland (PDF)

The Hong Kong Law Commision report on Stalking Law

In 1999 the US Attorney General published a Report on Cyberstalking which provides an interesting overview of that particular problem

An Article published in 'The Times' 28th January 2000 reviews some of the research which has been carried out to get "Inside the mind of a Stalker"

An article about the Offence of Harassment of a person at their Home discusses how this offence can be used by the Police in Stalking cases.

o Stalking o
(Dealing with Stalking)

One of the difficulties in Stalking cases, and most types of Harassment case, is that there is often very little physical evidence of what is happening and dates are often unspecified. This also makes it difficult for persons wrongly accused of harassment if the allegations are vague and imprecise. In order for a victim of stalking to be able to win a stalking case it is important to keep a diary of events with details of what has happened, dates, times and places.

In 2000 Detective Inspector Hamish Brown of the Metropolitan Police produced Stalking. An Investigators Guide (PDF) which provides detailed and practical guidance to Police Officers in how to deal with stalking cases. It suggests ways in which Police officers may be able to deal with cases without the need for court proceedings and also provides advice to victims of stalking.

If for any personal reason the victim does not want to go to the police, possibly because they know the stalker, then they could consider obtaining an Injunction under s3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. An Injunction is a Civil Court Order which is designed to prevent things happening in the future rather than punishing for things which may have happened in the past. For this reason much less evidence is required than would be the case in a criminal trial.

Stalking by means of letters, telephone calls or the Internet is dealt with in the Malicious Communications page

Anyone who is the victim of stalking is able to obtain advice and assistance from Survivors of Stalking an organisation set up by Tracey Morgan. Tracey was the stalking victim in the landmark case of Regina v Burstow and her experiences in that case led her to campaign for changes in the law. This campaign led eventually to the passing of The Protection from Harassment Act 1997.. Another organisation involved in advising and assisting stalking victims is The Suzy Lamplugh Trust which has many volunteers who, like Tracey, have experienced stalking first hand.

Victims of stalking and those involved in stalking cases will also find the following web sites of interest www.antistalking.com and www.stalkingvictims.com These are American web sites and naturally therefore their legal information is only relevant to America. However their information on the psychology of stalking and do’s and don’ts for handling stalking are relevant anywhere.

o Stalking o
(The Stalkers Bill 1996)

Prior to the passing of the Protection from Harassment Act there was no legislation specifically addressing the problem of stalking. Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden ( my co-author ) was the Solicitor Advocate representing a victim of harassment in the landmark Court of Appeal case of Burris v Azadani [1995] 1 WLR 1372. This was the first case to recognise that stalking did constitute a civil Tort and that Injunctions could lawfully be granted to prevent it.

Though Tim was successful in on obtaining an Injunction he recognised the inadequacy of the existing civil and criminal law dealing with the problem. He drafted a proposed reform of the law which in 1996 Janet Anderson MP presented to Parliament as the Private Member ‘Stalkers Bill’. Though the Stalkers Bill, like most private members bills was not passed the publicity and support it generated forced the government to take action in the form of the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act.

The Bill laid down a legal definition of stalking and made it a criminal offence. Courts were authorised to make ‘prohibitory orders’ in stalking cases and also to order stalkers to attend compulsory counselling. You may find it of interest to compare the definition of stalking in the Stalkers Bill with section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act and with the definitions in the various Foreign Stalking Laws.

Click here to read The Stalkers Bill 1996

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