PSNI arrest 88 alleged stalkers in year in Northern Ireland since law introduced

Vicky Clarke began campaigning for a new stalking law for Northern Ireland as far back as 2016.

Police have arrested 88 alleged stalkers in Northern Ireland since new legislation was introduced a year ago.

Since the offence was criminalised in April 2022, 47 people have been charged.

Officers will be working throughout National Stalking Awareness Week to encourage more victims to come forward, a senior detective said.

Detective Superintendent Lindsay Fisher said: "We are asking the public to not ignore the red flags.

"If someone's behaviour towards you is fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated, this is stalking.

"I think many people when they hear the word stalking will think of someone lurking in the shadows.

"Stalking can actually take many forms and can be online as well as in person and could be someone known to you or a complete stranger."

Ms Fisher added: "It is an insidious crime that takes over and destroys lives.

"Statistics show that people will suffer up to 100 incidents before reporting to police.

"It often results in fear, trauma and a reduction in the victim's quality of life; in some tragic cases it has resulted in murder.

"We don't want victims to suffer in silence. Stalking is a crime, which will not be tolerated or accepted within our communities.

"Over 4,500 officers and staff have now been trained to recognise and respond to these crimes and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to bring offenders to justice."

One stalking victim, speaking anonymously, described the impact the crime can have.

They said: "My stalker took away my feeling of freedom. Living with looking over my shoulder, at times fearing for my life."

"On one occasion I had 155 WhatsApp messages in a few hours and was also receiving messages on two other platforms (phone messages and Facebook messenger) at the same time, with calls between."

"One night, although he was 15 miles away, music started playing through the Bose sound system in my house.

"He did this through the Spotify app and then selected which device he wanted to play it on. I woke in the middle of the night to music playing, significant songs from our wedding etc. It was terrifying as I thought he was in the house and I'd no idea how it was happening."

Sarah Mason, boss of Women's Aid Federation NI, said there is a clear link between domestic abuse and stalking.

She added: "Many of the women we support would often experience stalking behaviours from their perpetrator as they try to break free from the abusive relationship.

"Now that stalking is a specific offence in Northern Ireland, we expect to see many more perpetrators charged under this new offence as the knowledge of the law change becomes more common amongst the public."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland have outlined stalking and harassment behaviours to look out for on their website.

Anyone who has been a victim is asked to report it to police on 101 - or 999 in an emergency Practical advice and information is available by calling the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 8020300.

National Stalking Awareness Week runs from Monday April 24 to Friday April 28.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.