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Stalking : legislative, policing and prosecution patterns in Australia

Research and public policy series no. 34

Emma Ogilvie
ISBN 0 642 24190 2 ISSN 1326-6004
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, June 2000

Abstract

This report aims to fill the void in stalking research by focusing on anti stalking legislation introduced in Australia in the mid 1990s and on subsequent trends in reporting and prosecuting stalking. After considering definitions, case studies and current explanations of stalking, including the characteristics of stalking offenders and victims, the characteristics of stalking motivations and behaviours, and the consequences of stalking for victims, the report examines the Australian anti stalking legislative framework, police statistics on reported stalking cases and clearance rates, and court outcomes in stalking cases. The study also discusses a range of intervention / prevention responses to stalking, including therapeutic intervention, legislative interventions such as restraining orders, and the impact of community attitudes towards stalking. The report produces a number of important findings, including findings that stalking is reported to police at a reasonably high rate; only a small number of reported stalking cases result in prosecution; and of those cases that make it to the courts, there is a higher likelihood of dismissal than conviction, and the penalties imposed tend to be at the lower end of the scale. The primary policy recommendation of the report is that the range of available responses to stalking needs to be expanded. Given the complicated nature of the offence, simple interventions based upon either therapy or criminal justice intervention are not suitable on their own. There needs to be co-operation between different stakeholders, including mental health experts, police and magistrates, domestic violence organisations and others in implementing the most appropriate interventions. These interventions should be based upon a sound understanding of the different types of stalking behaviours, the potential for violence, and the detrimental impact of these behaviours upon victims (particularly when they continue over a period of years).