What is stalking?

Stalking has only recently been recognised as a criminal offence, and the term is one that is often surrounded by confusion. Many people are unsure exactly what activities constitute stalking from a criminal perspective, and what the penalties are. You can be charged with stalking as a stand-alone charge, or in conjunction with another offence such as harassment or intimidation.

From a legal perspective, stalking is “the following of a person about or the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of or an approach to a person’s place of residence, business or work or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity.” Stalking activities can lead to an apprehended violence order (AVO) if the victim has reason to fear physical or mental harm, and carry up to a five-year prison sentence if convicted. Stalking is generally accepted to be a way for one person to attempt to control another, or gain attention through repeated unwanted activities.

If you have been accused of stalking, or are in receipt of an AVO, it is a good idea to speak to a criminal lawyer. Sydney has a large number of experienced legal professionals who can help you defend yourself such as Sydney Criminal Lawyers, who are based in the heart of the city.

According to the NSW Police website some of the activities which can be defined as ‘stalking’ include:

  • Repeated telephone calls
  • Repeated text messaging
  • Repeatedly leaving messages on social media sites
  • Following another person
  • Leaving notes or flowers
  • Watching or staring at another person repeatedly

In some cases stalking can also be defined as:

  • Interfering with someone’s property repeatedly
  • Accosting someone in a public place
  • Giving offensive material to the victim
  • Hindering someone from carrying out their lawful occupation, trade or business

Stalking behaviour can be extremely intimidating to victims, which is why stalking charges are often associated with intimidation. Being stalked can make victims feel powerless, out of control and threatened, and can cause emotional distress and psychological damage.

What is the difference between stalking and harassment?

There is often a fine line between stalking and harassment. Harassment covers a number of different situations and contexts including sexual harassment, workplace harassment and discrimination, whereas stalking is very specific and relates to certain activities and behaviours. Harassment is defined by the NSW Law society as “any form of behaviour that you do not want; offends, humiliates or intimidates you; and creates a hostile environment.” Harassment can carry more severe penalties than stalking, depending on the severity of the case and the consequences for the victim.

What can I do if I am accused of stalking?

If you have been accused of stalking and served with an apprehended violence order (AVO), you can choose to defend yourself in court.

For a person to be convicted of stalking, it needs to be proven that they intended to cause the victim to fear physical or mental harm. This can be difficult to establish as in some cases it is may be possible that the person accused of stalking was not doing it with the intention of causing fear to the other person.

If you have been accused of stalking, or any other offence such as assault, you need to find experienced legal help to advise you on your best defence. Criminal lawyers Sydney wide are well equipped to discuss your situation, and provide legal assistance.

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