Stalking: Final Report (html)
This inquiry has revealed the dreadful consequences of stalking on people who have experienced it. It has also revealed that the problem predominantly affects women. At the same time the inquiry demonstrated that our knowledge of what causes people to engage in stalking behaviour and, hence, how it can be addressed, has significant gaps. This inquiry showed, as did our recent inquiry into the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences, that there is still much to be done to protect victim survivors who report the matter to the police and eventually participate in the prosecution in court.
The recommendations made in this report chart a passage to improve the way people who have experienced stalking are treated. They also seek to address how people who engage in stalking behaviour might be diverted from that conduct.
The recommendations suggest creative and innovative ways to improve the system of responding to stalking, drawing on international practice. For example, we suggest that a victim survivor of stalking should be supported by a person who can guide them from reporting, to the availability of support services, and through any court actions.
A special acknowledgement should be reserved for Aggie Di Mauro. In the depth of her despair from the death of her daughter Celeste Manno under terrible circumstances, she successfully pressed the Attorney-General to investigate the law relating to stalking to save others the grief which she has suffered. I have had the privilege of meeting with her during this inquiry. She has brought a perspective which has contributed to the scope and depth of the examination. Her relentless pursuit of justice has been an inspiration. She often said that nothing would bring Celeste back, but this report will be a fitting legacy of her lovely daughter.
A feature of this report has been the large number of people who have experienced stalking who responded to our call to tell us their stories. Hundreds did so online, and we met with others. Their voices were critical to our understanding, and we trust we have reflected their concerns in our report.
We have received generous cooperation from a wide range of stakeholders. Thank you to all of them who, like all of us in our community, have had to adapt to the strictures placed upon us by the COVID pandemic, including budget restrictions which meant that they had to provide input into our work with strained resources. We are most appreciative of the work of the Sentencing Advisory Council, which produced three excellent reports to inform the inquiry.
It is usual in a preface such as this to thank the research team which produces the report. The circumstances of this report call for particular recognition. Whilst Dr Madeleine Ulbrick has been a member of the team since inception, and was largely responsible for writing the interim report, the rest of the team, Dr Emma Larking, Natalie Lilford, Hana Shahkhan and Marcus Hickleton, together with the team leader, Jacinth Pathmanathan, all took over the project after the delivery of the interim report. That was an unusual challenge and they rose to it with great skill and grace. The team was guided by the exceptional leadership of Jacinth characterised by her tolerance, patience and understanding, as well as her personal application to the subject matter. Their achievement was even greater because most of them had just completed the highly taxing job of completing the inquiry into the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences. And all that work was completed under the constraints imposed by COVID. This team built upon the research, consultations and thinking of the original team responsible for the consultation paper, and I thank them for their hard work. Nick Gadd, the Communications Manager and Gemma Walsh, the Information and Communications Officer, greatly assisted in the final stages with editing and proofreading.
The Commission is composed of eight Commissioners and me. We perform a very active role in the production of the reports and are ultimately responsible for their contents. Each of the Commissioners scrutinises the draft report in detail and provides written comments. They bring very diverse expertise to the task. I wish to thank Liana Buchanan, the Hon. Jennifer Coate AO,
Kathleen Foley SC, Bruce Gardner PSM, Professor Bernadette McSherry, Dan Nicholson, Gemma Varley PSM and Dr Vivian Waller for their input and particularly for the generous and collegiate way in which they approached the task.
Merrin Mason PSM, the CEO of the Commission, as usual provided a wise and steady hand on the administration of the project, calming frazzled COVID nerves at times, and contributing valuable insights into the substance of the work. The project could not happen without the administrative assistance of the Finance and Office Manager, Jennifer Joyner, my Executive Assistant, Monika George, and our Office Administrator Janis Dunk. I am very grateful for the efforts of each of them.
I trust you will find the report engaging to read and helpful to plot the future for the development of the law relating to stalking.
The Hon. Anthony North QC
Victorian Law Reform Commission