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S39 Criminal Justice & Licensing (Scotland) Act (Stalking offences)

Freedom of information: S39 Criminal Justice & Licensing (Scotland) Act (Stalking offences)

4 October 2013

Thank you for your request dated 5 September 2013 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the following information:

"1. How many charges have been reported to COPFS under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (offence of stalking)?

2. Of charges reported, how many prosecutions under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 were undertaken?

3. What was the outcome of these prosecutions?

4. For questions 1, 2 and 3 above, can you please provide a breakdown for 2010, 2011, 2012 and so far in 2013. I understand the Act came into force on December 13, 2010."

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) uses a live, operational case management system, specifically designed to receive crime and fatality reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies and to manage the cases for prosecution purposes. The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes.

Successful prosecutions under s39 have included types of behaviour such as:

• sending letters and emails

• contacting and/or visiting relatives

• offering to buy items or sending gifts

• attending at work places, children's schools,

• shouting, swearing and uttering threats

• graffiti on property

• following victims.

COPFS takes allegations of stalking extremely seriously, and has a robust prosecution policy in place to deal with stalking offences. Our prosecution policy, training and guidance place emphasis on the dynamics behind stalking to assist prosecutors in making the best decisions in the public interest. Prosecutors give careful consideration to which court a case should be heard in and the conditions that should apply to the accused until proceedings are concluded. Prosecutors will assess the level of risk to the victim taking all of the circumstances into account and will ask the court to impose the measures considered necessary to protect the victim until the conclusion of the case, which can include asking for the accused to be remanded in custody or to be subject to additional bail conditions. An example of such an additional condition might be one which prevents an accused from approaching or contacting the victim or entering the area where the victim lives or works.

Victims of stalking are referred to our dedicated Victim Information and Advice service (VIA), which will ensure that they are offered the support and information they require throughout the court process. VIA can also assist in referring victims of stalking offences to other agencies who can provide specialist support or necessary practical assistance.

At sentencing stage the prosecutor has a continuing role in ensuring that any relevant information is put before the court to assist it in reaching the most appropriate sentencing decision. In appropriate cases prosecutors will, after discussing the matter with the victim, invite the court to consider granting a non-harassment order to ensure that all proper steps are taken to secure the future safety of that victim.

The information you have requested is summarised in the table below. This information is correct as at 12 September 2013. All of the data corresponds with the financial year in which the charge was raised e.g. convictions for charges raised in 2010-11 are recorded in the 2010-11 data though the conviction may not have occurred during that period. The number of prosecutions ongoing should be taken into account in interpreting the figures, particularly for the periods 2012-13 and 2013-14 where there are a significant number of prosecutions which have not yet concluded. The total number of charges reported will also include charges where action was taken in relation to other charges reported by the police in the case, for example, because the prosecutor took the view that an alternative charge was more appropriate or because details of the charge were included within the body of another charge for evidential reasons.


S39 Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010

2010-11 (legislation came into force 13 Dec 2010)

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

Total

Number of charges reported to COPFS

83

437

560

351

1,431

Number of charges where a prosecution commenced

59

303

416

268

1,046

1. Number of charges convicted

37

171

200

54

 

2. Number of charges acquitted

12

71

64

10

 

3. Number of charges where prosecution ongoing

2

14

116

199

 

4. Number of charges where prosecution discontinued

8

47

36

5

 

 

COPFS is committed to prosecuting stalking offences effectively and appropriately, and to supporting victims of stalking through the criminal justice process.