Scotland

Stalking charity wins government funding for first time

woman looking at laptop screen in distress Image copyright Getty Images

Scotland's only charity supporting victims of stalking is to receive government funding.

Action Against Stalking said it would use the £55,000 grant to help deal with victims' increasingly complex needs.

More than 11% of adults in Scotland say they have experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment.

Stalking became a specific offence in 2010 and by the end of the last financial year there had been 8,825 cases reported to police.

Victims are most commonly targeted through unwanted text messages, emails or posts on social media sites.

Action Against Stalking (AAS) said the cash would help to develop and deliver training for services and organisations working with those who had been targeted.

It said as cases became increasingly complex, greater understanding of victims' needs was required across the justice system and beyond.

'Exciting opportunity'

Ann Moulds, AAS chief executive, said she believed the money would make a difference to many lives.

"It provides an exciting and essential opportunity for Scotland to continue to lead the way in advancing the recognition of and response to stalking," she said.

The Scottish Crime & Justice Survey 2017-18 reported that, in 2016-17 and 2017-18 combined, 11.1% of adults experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment in the 12 months prior to interview.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many victims are targeted via emails or posts on social media sites

More than two-thirds of victims were sent unwanted messages by text, email, messenger or targeted through posts on social media sites.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the funding for the charity was part of an £18m budget for victim and witness support announced for 2019-20.

He said: "Stalking can be a traumatic crime for victims and social media can be exploited by stalkers to harass and track their victims from a distance, exacerbating its complexity.

"Victims are often vulnerable and have little escape, requiring an intelligent, compassionate approach to support from across the justice system and third sector partners, which Action Against Stalking can inform and deliver."

'Costly and stressful'

SNP MSP Rona Mackay has launched a consultation on a proposed bill to strengthen protection for victims of stalking.

It aims to give police the power to apply for stalking protection orders on behalf of victims.

Currently, individuals who are being stalked can apply to the court to have a Non-Harassment Order (NHO) taken out against a stalker.

Ms Mackay said: "This means that the victim has to take legal action themselves, which can be costly and stressful, and the numbers of victims applying for NHOs has therefore been empirically low.

"Prosecutors can apply for an NHO once a stalker has been convicted. However, criminal cases take time to investigate and prosecute, leaving the victim to navigate a civil action at a particularly vulnerable time."

She said if police could show there was evidence of stalking behaviour which they feared might leave the victim at risk, they could apply directly to the court for a Stalking Protection Order (SPO).

Any breach of that order would be a criminal offence.

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