Domestic violence-related stalking/intimidation incidents recorded by the NSW Police has increased 110% from 2012 to 2021, with the significant rise attributed to changes in officers’ response to domestic violence.
Over half of all stalking/intimidation incidents are domestic violence-related, with offences normally involving threats, intimidation, and verbal abuse, rather than ‘stalking’. The new coercive control offences are also a newly recognised form of domestic violence in NSW.
The results, published in a report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, also revealed that one in eight offenders charged with the offence were sentenced to a custodial penalty.
The number of custodial sentences increased 96.1% from 2014 to 2021, from 311 – 610.
However, it is notable that in 70% of cases, offenders are also charged with other domestic violence offences finalised at the same court appearance.
Other charged offences commonly include assaults, breaching an apprehended domestic violence order, and property damage.
Of the domestic violence-related stalking/intimidation incidents committed in 2021, over half were by a current or former intimate partner of the victim, with ex-partners being more common.
Over one third were committed by family members, mainly relating to parents/children and sibling familial relationships.
Males were more likely to be offenders at 84.8% of those charged, whereas only 15.1% of those charged were females.
Females were more likely to victims, amounting to 74.1% in 2021, with 25.7% male.
The increase in charges of stalking/intimidation was reported to have a profound impact on First Nations peoples, with the number of proceedings initiated against Aboriginal persons increasing by 274.4% from 2012 to 2022.
In 2021, the rate of legal proceedings against Aboriginal people for stalking/intimidation was seven times higher than the equivalent rate for all persons.
Furthermore, one in five of those found guilty received a custodial penalty.
The substantial increase in domestic-violence related stalking/intimidation incidents has been attributed by BOSCAR, to changes in law enforcement policy.
Practice or policy changes include increased detection, recording, and charging of those suspected of stalking/intimidation, which can be seen as reflective of recent trends in recognising the seriousness of domestic and family violence.
Intimidation/Stalking Domestic Violence Offences
As outlined in section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW), it is an offence to stalk or intimidate another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm.
The maximum penalty applicable is 5 years imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine.
A person will be deemed to intend to cause fear of physical or mental harm if they know that the conduct is likely to cause fear in the other person.
Notably, the prosecution is not required to prove that the person alleged to have been stalked or intimidated actually feared physical or mental harm.
Intimidation is defined by section 7 of the Act to include:
- conduct (including cyberbullying) amounting to harassment or molestation of the person,
- an approach made to the person by any means (including via phone, text messaging, e-mailing and other technologically assisted means) that causes the person to fear for their safety, or
- any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to a person with whom they have a domestic relationship, or of violence or damage to any person or property.
Stalking is defined by section 8 of the Act to include:
- the following of a person about,
- the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of, or an approach to, a person’s residence, workplace, or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity,
- contacting or otherwise approaching a person using the internet or any other technologically assisted means.
The offence will be considered ‘domestic violence-related’ where it occurs in the context of a domestic relationship.
Domestic relationships are defined by the Act to include, married or divorced persons, de-facto, or ex-de-facto partners, those who are in or have had an intimate relationship, relatives, and those living or have lived in the same household.
Other relationships deemed domestic include those living or who have lived together as long-term residents in the same residential facility, and those in a relationship which involve ongoing paid or unpaid care of the other person.
In the case of First Nations people, domestic relationships will be judged via reference to their extended family or kin, according to the Indigenous kinship system of the person’s culture.