In 2012, the offence of Stalking was added to the Statute of Protection of Harassment Act 1997. It gave rise to two different offences; simple Stalking under Section 2A of the act, which is a summary only matter and Stalking involving fear of violence and/or serious alarm or distress is covered under Section 4A of the act and it is an either-way offence, which means the case can be heard at the magistrates’ or Crown Court.
Course of conduct is required to be found guilty of both offences. Essentially this means acting in a way over a period of time which would constitute the offence of Stalking, which is a type of Harassment.
As Stalking is a fairly recently added offence, the term “course of conduct over a period of time” has never been clearly defined other than to say it takes place on two or more occasions.
In the recent case of R v Bahram Hekmat, Mr Hekmat was found guilty at Wood Green Crown Court and was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for an offence of Stalking involving fear of violence and/or serious alarm or distress. His behaviour consisted of following a 13 year old child and blowing her kisses. His offending behaviour took place over a 15 minute period.
It is a popular view that as a society we have a misapprehension that Stalking is an offence which takes place over a number of months. Whilst that type of behaviour is seen as the “norm” when thinking about the offence of Stalking, what this recent case now establishes is that the course of conduct required can take place over only a matter of minutes.
The Crown Prosecution Service will be relying on this conviction when considering charging individuals at the police station. Therefore, it can be assumed that the floodgates will inevitably widen as Stalking offenders continue to be prosecuted according to the newly narrowed period within which the course of conduct can take place.
Author, Nicholas De Freitas, is Director of Crime at Duncan Lewis’ Harrow branch. Nicholas has extensive expertise in all criminal matters, representing both private and legal aid eligible clients. As a Higher Rights Advocate, he has experience in a wide range of criminal proceedings and he has acted as Junior Counsel in a number of murder cases and complex fraud trials.
For expert advice on any criminal defence matter, contact Nicholas De Freitas on 02031141150 and nicholasd@Duncanlewis.com.
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