Should stalking be seen as criminal assault?

Essay by SofUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, September 2006

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In 1993, following the murder of a woman by her ex-lover, who violently harassed her in breach of a protection order before killing her , the New South Wales Parliament responded by enacting a separate offence of "Stalking" which is now part of the Crimes Act (1900). Stalking is conduct that is harassing or threatening, directed at a person with the intention to cause intimidation or fear. It is a form of non-physical violence, causing psychological and emotional abuse. The awakening of concern about this type of behaviour was caused by its prevalence in domestic violence cases. This essay will argue that stalking should not be seen as criminal assault but more significantly, as a specific category of offences under the heading of "stalking". Firstly, the nature of the offence of stalking makes it inappropriate to prosecute under the current law of criminal assault. Related to this is the severe impact that stalking behaviour inflicts on its victims.

Lastly this essay will highlight the inadequacy of dealing with an offence such as this through civil remedies alone.

The current law of assault is simply not broad enough to deal with the complexities that arise from an offence such as stalking. Assault is an act, which intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence , charged under s61 of the Crimes Act (1900). At the essence of the offence of assault is a requirement that the threat created by the offender must cause a fear of imminent violence in the victim. Stalking involves instances where a person does not explicitly threaten their victim but silently follows them around or sits outside their dwelling. When placed in this context, such behaviour is dangerous beyond its immediate significance. Although, it is difficult to charge this as assault...