Cyberstalking is on the increase. In the most recent British Crime Survey, published this year, 18.7% of women and 9.3% of men said they had been stalked at some point in their lives. And according to a report in the Guardian, experts say that half of all stalkers now use the internet to contact or target their victims.
The Crown Prosecution Service has recently published revised guidance on stalking and harassment. It defines the act of ‘stalking’ and the various ways it can arise, including cyberstalking. The guidance extends the use of restraining orders in order to protect victims. Significantly, prosecutors can apply for a restraining order even when there is an acquittal under the Domestic Violence Act 2009.
This guidance is welcomed by victim support charities such as Network for Surviving Stalking who have launched a survey in conjunction with psychologists from the University of Bedfordshire to find the level of cyberstalking in the UK, in what form it takes such as web, text messages, Instant Messaging and how frequently the harassment occurs. They hope to increase awareness of the issues, raising the possibility of stronger sanctions covering a wider range of harassment.