Stalking Consultation Paper

7. Responding to people who commit stalking

Introduction

7.1 Victoria’s response to reported offences, including stalking, focuses on:

• holding people who have committed offences accountable and denouncing the harm

• rehabilitating and reintegrating people who have committed offences

• protecting the community from further harm.

7.2 In this chapter we ask if these aims are being met, and if not, how to improve our system.

7.3 We also ask whether there are any learnings from the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016, and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System in 2021, which might be effective in holding people who stalk to account.

Diverse needs

7.4 People commit acts of stalking in different ways and contexts. Stalking can be committed by people who are strangers, acquaintances, work colleagues or ex-partners. Stalking can take place online, in public places, workplaces and in homes.

7.5 People who commit stalking offences are diverse in their behaviour and characteristics.[203] Some people may be more likely to reoffend than others.[204] Some have complex needs and require mental health or substance misuse support.[205]

7.6 Interventions for people who have committed offences must be responsive to their diverse needs and experiences. For example, specialised responses may be needed for Aboriginal people, people with disability, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.[206]

Question

24 How responsive are rehabilitation and reintegration interventions to the diverse needs of people who commit stalking?

7.7 We want to hear if interventions and services are accessible to people who have committed stalking offences and respond to their diverse needs and contexts.

Sussex Perpetrator Intervention Program

This is a pilot program in the United Kingdom. It brings together local police, rehabilitation and post-prison reintegration service providers and a local stalking advocacy service. The program is for people who commit stalking offences. It includes individual psychological therapy sessions and is aimed at addressing and modifying problem behaviour. The program also teaches pro-social interpersonal skills and aims to improve participants’ ability to manage their behaviour during an emotional crisis.[207]

7.8 In Victoria there are specialist courts and court programs outside the mainstream court system.[208] Special features of some of these courts include intensive case management, court supervision and cultural safety. While they do not directly manage stalking behaviour, they can address some of the issues that can co-occur alongside stalking and/or provide a more supported environment for some people who commit stalking to understand the impact of their behaviour. They include:

• Assessment Referral Court (ARC): deals with some charges where a person who has been charged has been diagnosed with a mental illness and/or a cognitive impairment.

• Drug Court: deals with some alleged offences where a person was dependent on drugs and/or alcohol and this contributed to their offending.

• Koori Court: is for Aboriginal people and has Aboriginal Elders as part of the sentencing hearing and aims to provide a culturally safe court experience.

• Neighbourhood Justice Centre: provides local support services for people charged with certain offences. These services address the underlying reasons why they were charged.

• Specialist Family Violence Courts provide for enhanced safety features, such as separate entrances for victim survivors and remote hearing facilities; magistrates and court staff with training in family violence; processes that give victim survivors more choice about how they want to participate in their court proceedings, for example, in person or remotely; magistrates who have powers to mandate that perpetrators of family violence engage in programs to change their behaviour; and a dedicated service for Aboriginal Victorians.[209]

• Court Integrated Services Program is a court program that addresses underlying causes of offending. Participants undergo a risk assessment and have a case manager and receive specialist support across a range of needs. These include drug and alcohol treatment, crisis and supported accommodation and mental health treatment.

7.9 These courts and programs sometimes deal with people who are charged with stalking who meet the requirements for the specialist court to hear the case.

7.10 We want to hear about how the specialist courts and programs respond to people who are charged with stalking.

Question

25 Could some specialist courts and programs help address some of the issues that may co-occur alongside stalking behaviour? If so, how?

Responding to offending behaviour

7.11 Rehabilitation and reintegration are guiding principles of the correctional system. This includes measures that apply before, during and after a person’s sentence.[210] Rehabilitation and reintegration are both important measures that aim to stop future offending and victimisation.

Rehabilitation

7.12 Treatment programs are one form of rehabilitation. There continues to be discussion about how effective they are and for whom. For example, it is not clear whether existing programs are suitable for people who commit stalking whose behaviour does not include physical or sexual violence.[211]

7.13 However, it appears that treatment programs are most successful when they are made to fit the needs of individuals.[212]

Reintegration

7.14 The correctional system aims to support people who have been in prison to reintegrate into the community. This should start before they are released from prison and continue after their release at the end of their sentence or while they are on parole.[213]

7.15 To reintegrate into the community successfully, a person will need a range of supports that respond to their specific needs.

7.16 Corrections Victoria Reintegration Pathway provides pre-release assessments and pre-and-post release support programs.

7.17 To be responsive to each person’s transition needs, the pathway needs to target seven critical domains for successful reintegration:

• housing

• employment

• education and training

• alcohol and other drug support

• mental health support

• independent living skills

• community and family connection.[214]

7.18 Having regard to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, we reiterate the importance of a collaborative, well-integrated and coordinated mental health service system that responds to a person’s whole needs.[215]

Question

26 How well are prison and post-prison rehabilitation or reintegration measures working for people who have committed stalking? How can they be improved?

Are there learnings from family violence reforms?

7.19 Our terms of reference ask us to consider the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016.

7.20 We want to know if there are any lessons we can draw from these reforms, in terms of responding to people who commit stalking.

7.21 The Royal Commission identified the need to improve interventions for people who commit family violence. It concluded that assisting people who commit family violence to change their behaviour was essential to reducing family violence.[216]

7.22 For example, the Royal Commission recommended that the Victorian Government trial and evaluate interventions that provide individual case management for people who commit family violence.[217]

7.23 The Royal Commission also identified the need to develop a collective responsibility for improving family violence interventions. It recommended that the Victorian Government map the roles and responsibilities of all agencies and service providers that have contact with people who commit family violence.[218]

Question

27 Are there relevant learnings from the reforms to the family violence system that could be applied to the way the system responds to people who commit stalking?


  1. Rosemary Purcell and Troy McEwan, ‘Treatment Approaches for Stalking’ in Jane L Ireland, Carol A Ireland and Philip Birch (eds), Violent and Sexual Offenders (Routledge, 1st ed, 2018) 400.

  2. Marijke Malsch, Jan W de Keijser and Sofia EC Debets, ‘Are Stalkers Recidivists? Repeated Offending by Convicted Stalkers’ (2011) 26(1) Violence and Victims 3.

  3. Rosemary Purcell and Troy McEwan, ‘Treatment Approaches for Stalking’ in Jane L Ireland, Carol A Ireland and Philip Birch (eds), Violent and Sexual Offenders (Routledge, 1st ed, 2018) 400.

  4. On the general need for perpetrator interventions to respond to diverse needs and experiences, see Donna Chung et al, Improving Accountability: The Role of Perpetrator Intervention Systems—Key Findings and Future Directions (ANROWS Research Report 20/2020, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, 2020) 9 <https://www.anrows.org.au/publication/improved-accountability-the-role-of-perpetrator-intervention-systems/>; Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (Report, March 2016) vol 3, 278–280 <http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/ReportRecommendations.html>.

  5. Sussex Police, ‘New Scheme to Reduce Harm Caused by Stalking in Sussex’, Force News (8 March 2021) <https://www.sussex.police.uk/news/sussex/news/force-news/new-scheme-to-reduce-harm-caused-by-stalking-in-sussex>.

  6. Specialist courts in Victoria are Divisions of another Court (usually the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria) rather than standalone courts. See, for example, the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) which provides for the establishment of the Drug Court Division, Koori Court Division, Specialist Family Violence Court Division, Neighbourhood Justice Court Division and the Assessment and Referral Court List.

  7. Courts (Web Page) <http://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023/priorities-for-2020-2023/courts>.

  8. Corrective Services Administrators’ Council (CSAC), Guiding Principles for Corrections in Australia (Factsheet, Government of Australia, 2018) 23 <https://www.corrections.vic.gov.au/guiding-principles-for-corrections-in-australia>.

  9. Rosemary Purcell and Troy McEwan, ‘Treatment Approaches for Stalking’ in Jane L Ireland, Carol A Ireland and Philip Birch (eds), Violent and Sexual Offenders (Routledge, 1st ed, 2018) 400, 402.

  10. Rachel D MacKenzie and David V James, ‘Management and Treatment of Stalkers: Problems, Options, and Solutions’ (2011) 29(2) Behavioral Sciences & the Law 220.

  11. Corrective Services Administrators’ Council (CSAC), Guiding Principles for Corrections in Australia (Factsheet, Government of Australia, 2018) 24 <https://www.corrections.vic.gov.au/guiding-principles-for-corrections-in-australia>.

  12. Department of Justice (Vic) ‘Transition and Reintegration Unit Brochures’, Corrections, Prisons and Parole (Web Page, May 2018) 2 <https://www.corrections.vic.gov.au/transition-and-reintegration-unit-brochures>.

  13. Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (Final Report, 2021) vol 1, 242.

  14. Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (Report, March 2016) Recommendations 89–93 <http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html>; Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (Report, March 2016) Recommendations 89–93 <http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html>. See also Report of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (Report, November 2020) <https://content.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-05/Report%20of%20the%20Family%20Violence%20Reform%20Implementation%20Monitor%20-%20as%20at%201%20November%202020_1.pdf>.

  15. Recommendation 87.

  16. Recommendation 85.

Voiced by Amazon Polly