What is Stalking?

Stalking and harassment occur when a person engages in persistent behaviour that induces fear, distress, or a sense of threat to another person.

Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, stalking and harassment are recognised as criminal offences.

There are different offences that can fall into this category.


This happens when someone who is known to the victim is harassing them. This could be a neighbour, or people from your local area or it could be a stranger and needs to happen more than once.

Harassment may include:

  • bullying at school or in the workplace
  • cyber stalking (using the internet to harass someone)
  • antisocial behaviour
  • sending unwanted gifts
  • unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is prohibited by law as a form of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

According to the Act, behaviour constitutes sexual harassment if it:

  • Violates your dignity
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment (including online and digital environments)

Some examples of sexual harassment would include:

  • sexual comments, jokes or gestures
  • staring or leering at your body
  • using names like ’slut’ or ‘whore’
  • unwanted sexual communications, like emails, texts, DMs
  • sharing sexual photos or videos
  • groping and touching

Some of these will also constitute sexual or indecent assault.


Stalking shares similarities with harassment but is characterised by more aggressive behaviour. Stalkers often develop an unhealthy obsession with their target.

It’s important to recognise that the perpetrator of stalking could be someone familiar or a complete stranger. The four warning signs of stalking are when behaviour is fixated, obsessive, unwanted, and repeated. Therefore stalking may include:

  • regularly following someone
  • repeatedly going uninvited to their home
  • checking someone’s internet use, email or other electronic communication
  • hanging around somewhere they know the person often visits
  • interfering with their property
  • watching or spying on someone
  • identity theft (signing-up to services, buying things in someone’s name)


Since the advent of the internet, cyberstalking it has become increasingly common. This involves persistent and unwelcome online contact from another person which results in discomfort and annoyance at best, and severe distress and mental trauma at worst.

Cyberstalkers come from various backgrounds and can be strangers or individuals known to the victim, including former partners. Motives for cyberstalking vary widely. The more determined or obsessive the stalker, the more likely they are to exploit multiple online channels.

The risks of cyberstalking

  • Identity theft which can involve having your credentials including online accounts controlled
  • Having your contact details obtained and used
  • Location and tracking of you by GPS on mobiles, tracker devices or spyware on phones
  • Having false profiles, websites and blogs posted on social networking and other sites
  • Being discredited in social media
  • Use of your image

What are the Sentencing Guidelines for Stalking?

If the offence is harassment or stalking:

  • the maximum sentence is six months’ custody
  • if racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is two years’ custody

If the offence is harassment (putting people in fear of violence) or stalking (involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress):

  • the maximum sentence is 10 years’ custody
  • if racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is 14 years’ custody

What should you do if you've been charged for stalking or harassment?

If you or a family member are accused of stalking or harassment you should seek legal advice immediately. It is vital that you receive the best advice possible and provide as much detail of the facts of your case as you can to ensure the right result for you.