Intended for healthcare professionals


Stalking: why do people do it?

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 03 June 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1486

The behaviour is newsworthy but complex

  1. Rajesh Nadkarni, specialist registrar,
  2. Don Grubin, professor
  1. Department of Forensic Psychiatry, St Nicholas Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3XT

    In June 1997 the Protection from Harassment Act was passed in England and Wales. Commonly referred to as “anti-stalking” legislation, this act allows a person convicted of “pursuing a course of conduct amounting to the harassment of another” to be fined or imprisoned and made subject to a restraining order. When the act was passed it was expected that about 200 cases would arise from it annually. According to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, however, 1180 people were brought to court under the act in the first six months of 1998,of whom 1013 were convicted.

    Although associated with stalking, the harassment act encompasses a wide range of behaviours, not all of which are stalking. Most definitions of stalking include the repeated targeting of a specific victim with harassment or following,1 but the border between legitimate courtship and stalking can be blurred. Generally, to be defined as stalking the behaviour must be unwanted and intrusive.2 We would argue that the stalker must also have an intense preoccupation with the victim.

    The range …

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