26 September 2023

Law Reform takes steps to stop stalking

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The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) is calling for the justice system to improve the way it treats people who have experienced stalking in a non-family violence context.

Chair of the VLRC, Tony North said the Commission’s Stalking: Final Report was the first Australian inquiry into non-family violence stalking laws.

“Stalking is not well understood in our society, and many people do not even realise that it is a crime,” Mr North said.

“People who experience stalking often do not report it, and when they do, they often fail to receive the help that they need,” he said.

“For too long, the response to stalking has relied heavily on victims taking action to avoid being stalked.

“We need to shift the focus to the people who commit the crime.”

Mr North said stalking affected at least one in six women and around one in 15 men.

He said it was a set of behaviours that could cause great harm to victims’ mental and physical health and could also escalate to serious violence, homicide and suicide.

The Chair called for victims to be given easier access to financial and practical support, such as technology to prevent cyberstalking.

“Victims should be supported by independent advocates to guide them through every stage, from reporting the stalking activity to accessing support services and any court actions,” Mr North said.

“The Report also recommends improvements to the Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO) system,” he said.

“The system is currently swamped, so non-family violence stalking matters do not receive the attention they need.

Mr North said the Report contained 45 recommendations to improve the ways the justice system treated people who experienced stalking in a non-family violence context, including the development of guidance on how to identify and prioritise stalking cases, and amendments to the Crimes Act 1958 to make the stalking offence clearer and easier to apply.

The VLRC’s 207-page Stalking: Final Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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