A new report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) is calling for changes to how Victoria Police responds to victims of stalking. The VLRC’s interim report on Stalking was tabled in Parliament and published on 6 April 2022.
Stalking affects at least one in six women and around one in 15 men. In Victoria, stalking is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment. It can be grounds for a personal safety intervention order. It can cause serious harm to the mental and physical health of victims, and can escalate to violence and even homicide.
Over 25,000 stalking offences were reported to police in Victoria in the ten years to 2020. The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) says in a report published today that victims of stalking often have difficulty when they try to report it, and many say their reports are not taken seriously by the police.
The VLRC received 115 submissions and 254 online responses from people describing shocking experiences of stalking, which often did not lead to anyone being charged or convicted. In its report, the VLRC recommends that the police:
- Should have training in how to respond when someone reports stalking
- Should improve the ways they interview victims of stalking
- Should have better systems for gathering and saving reports about stalking cases
- Should request intervention orders on behalf of victims, rather than victims doing it themselves
- Should provide guidance and direction to victims, for example on how to end cyberstalking.
The VLRC was asked to look into stalking laws in December 2020, after the killing of Celeste Manno, allegedly by the man who was stalking her. This interim report focusses on the role of Victoria Police in responding to reports of stalking.
A final report, due in June, will cover other aspects of the justice system including intervention orders.
Chair of the VLRC the Hon. Anthony North QC said: “Based on what we have heard from victims, stalking is an invisible crime, frequently not recognised by police and even by those who experience it. It is often minimised or trivialised, and victim survivors are often expected to manage the situation on their own. Our recommendations are intended to assist the police to recognise stalking, to take victims seriously, support them, and intervene quickly to stop the stalking.”
Stalking: Interim Report is available on the VLRC’s website at lawreform.vic.gov.au.