Strengthening Stalking And Harassment Laws

SA Gov

South Australia’s stalking laws will be updated to better protect victims and make it easier for authorities to prosecute perpetrators.

The State Government will soon consult with key stakeholders – including the legal profession and victim services – on moves that would see important changes to the existing stalking laws.

The Government is looking to update the laws to reflect new and emerging technologies that perpetrators may use to unlawfully stalk or harass an individual – such as using electronic devices to track someone’s movements or monitoring a person’s e-mail account or internet browser. The proposed changes also make clear that stalking or harassing behaviours can occur on social media or any other online platform.

The current laws require the prosecution to prove the defendant intended the stalking or harassing behaviour to cause serious physical or mental harm, or serious apprehension or fear. The Government will consult on changes that would remove the reference to requiring ‘serious’ harm, apprehension or fear.

This would lower the threshold to prove the offence and would capture a broader range of activities that would qualify as unlawful stalking or harassment.

Further, the Government will consult on changes to add an alternative objective test that the defendant ought reasonably to have known that the conduct would cause the victim harm, apprehension or fear.

Another key proposed change is to update the name of the offence from ‘unlawful stalking’ to ‘unlawful stalking and harassment’, to emphasise that the existing offence already captures a broad range of unwelcome behaviours directed towards the victim.

This is intended to address common misconceptions about how the laws work and the type of behaviour that is covered under the existing ‘unlawful stalking’ offence, reflecting initial feedback from the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights indicating that victims can often be unaware that what they are experiencing may constitute stalking.

These reforms will be introduced to Parliament later this year.

As put by Kyam Maher

The Bill to be consulted upon will update the list of stalking and harassing behaviours – such as to include the use of electronic devices to track a person’s movements or monitoring of emails – which helps to modernise the offence and to broaden public understanding of what types of behaviour can be involved.

The existing threshold to demonstrate that the defendant intended to cause ‘serious’ harm, apprehension or fear is incredibly high and, quite frankly, makes it difficult to prosecute behaviour that ought to be captured and deterred.

Stalking or harassment can have a significant impact on a victim, even where the harm intended by the perpetrator does not meet the threshold of being ‘serious’.

We want to address this, and make it clear that any behaviour aimed at causing, or that would reasonably be known to cause physical or mental harm, or apprehension or fear, can constitute unlawful stalking and harassment. This will ensure authorities have scope to take action when this type of offending occurs.

Ultimately, we will seek to introduce a Bill to Parliament that better protects victims and ensure perpetrators are held to account for their actions.

As put by Embolden General Manager Mary Leaker

Embolden welcomes public consultation on a Bill that aims to better protect victim-survivors of stalking and harassment in SA.

In recent years, we have seen huge increases in the use of technology to monitor, surveil and harass as part of a pattern of intimate partner violence, and it is vital that our laws keep pace.

The proposed Bill better captures the range of stalking and harassing behaviours that are commonly perpetrated in our communities, including in coercive and controlling relationships. These behaviours absolutely cause harm, apprehension and fear and it is critically important that authorities can act to hold perpetrators to account and protect victim-survivors.

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