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COPFS

Stalking Prosecutions (Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010)

22 November 2012

FOI REQUEST: Stalking Prosecutions (Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010)

Thank you for your e-mail dated 9 August 2012 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in which you seek:-

"statistics on the number of and type of prosecutions (and success rate) since the new statutory offence of 'stalking' was brought in under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. Also any information on the number, type and success rate of prosecutions brought in Scotland prior to the 2010 Act. Any background information on stalking eg improvements in the training of police officers in dealing with stalkiing complaints, tagging processes etc would also be appreciated."

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) uses a live, operational case management system, specifically designed to receive criminal and death 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.

I have annexed a table which show details for the charges under Section 39 of the 2010 Act, including the decisions taken and the outcomes (where such are available) for these offences. Section 39 of the Act only came into force on 13 December 2010 and you will notice that many of the charges have not yet reached a conclusion.

You also asked about offences prior to the implementation of the 2010 Act. Prior to the 2010 Act, there was not a specific offence under Scots law so as a result, it is not possible to identify any details relating to that part of your request.

In relation to your request for background information, the introduction of section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 was welcomed by prosecutors as previously they required to identify either a common law offence such as breach of the peace or a statutory offence such as sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages by means of a public electronic communications network and thereafter place the offending behaviour into the context of those offences. The developments in case law around the law of breach of the peace had increasingly presented challenges especially in relation to the requirement to establish that there was a 'public' element to the accused's offending.

This was because that some of the behaviour which would now be considered as stalking, for example, repeated sending of letters, text messages and emails could not be pursued, without further offending behaviour taking place and providing sufficiency for a charge of breach of the peace. This has been remedied by the introduction of section 39 and there have been successful prosecutions in relation to:

  • sending letters and emails
  • contacting and visiting relatives
  • offering to buy items, gifts
  • attending at work places, children's school,
  • shouting, swearing and uttering threats
  • graffiti on property
  • following victims.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has developed a robust prosecution policy in respect of such offences. The training programme for staff dealing with these types of cases and the prosecution policy ensures that prosecutors understand the dynamics behind stalking and make the optimum decisions in the public interest in respect of forum for proceedings and the conditions that should apply to the alleged perpetrator until proceedings are concluded whether that be by seeking a remand in custody or special conditions of bail necessary to protect a victim – for example by prohibiting an accused from contacting her or from approaching her home or place of work.

All 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 and very importantly assist in signposting to victims of stalking offences to other agencies who can provide specialist support or necessary practical assistance.

At sentencing stage it is now recognised that a prosecutor has a continuing role in respect of any relevant information to put before the court to assist it to reach the most appropriate sentencing decision. Therefore, 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 steps are taken to secure the future safety of that victim.

Annex

Number of charges recorded for accused who were prosecuted.

How was the accused dealt with

How was the charge dealt with

Outcome

FY Reported

Grand Total

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

1. Solemn

1. Court

1. Convicted

2

8

1

11

2. Not Convicted

1

5

1

7

3. Ongoing



19

24

43

4. No Further Action



5



5

1. Court Total



3

37

26

66

6. Not Separate Charge

4

2

4

10

1. Solemn Total

7

39

30

76

2. Summary

1. Court

1. Convicted

34

139

51

224

2. Not Convicted

11

54

9

74

3. Ongoing

2

40

122

164

4. No Further  Action

7

33

5

45

1. Court Total



54

266

187

507

6. Not Separate Charge

5

20

22

47

2. Summary Total

59

286

209

554