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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 675 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

This review has taken place over several years. In fact, the reference was given to the Community Law Reform Committee by my colleague Mr Connolly, when he was Attorney-General, and the report was produced late last year. The Community Law Reform Committee has identified as a serious gap in the ACT's legislation the issue of stalking. The report states:

Broadly, "stalking" is conduct directed at a person and intended to cause intimidation, harassment and/or fear.

It goes on:

Stalking includes behaviour such as following another person, loitering outside, watching, or entering their home or work, keeping them under surveillance, telephoning them, sending them articles, and interfering with property in their possession. It usually encompasses actions that have traditionally fallen short of the criminal law but which could be reasonably expected to arouse fear or apprehension in the recipient.

There are two aspects of stalking that I think are significant. The first is that, in the context of domestic violence, stalking should be seen as a further act of violence, for that is what it is. It is intended to intimidate, to cause fear, and that is exactly the effect it has on its victims. Stalking is another form of violence. I know that up until this point there has been a view around that unless an offender was actually causing harm or threatening to cause harm to a victim there was not a crime. I believe that it is time for our community to say that this action itself is a crime. We must treat the issue of stalking as an issue of violence and a further representation of violence in our community.

There has been a gap in the ACT's criminal law in regard to stalking, and this is an issue the Community Law Reform Committee has dealt with in some detail. I believe that the Assembly should take up this issue and ensure that in the ACT, as in every other jurisdiction in Australia, the victims of domestic violence are offered protection from stalking. The Community Law Reform Committee has made a statement on this issue that gives us some of the history of that legislation in other jurisdictions. They say:

A series of stalking homicides galvanised public opinion in Australia in the early 1990s when it was recognised that the criminal law had no offence which targeted stalking behaviour. At about the same time the existence of legislation in the United States, initially prompted by the "stalking" of celebrities by crazed fans, became known. All Australian jurisdictions except the ACT have now introduced legislation creating the criminal offence of stalking. Stalking is an offence in all jurisdictions in the United States and in Canada. The primary focus of such legislation is stalking in the context of domestic violence, however, many provisions are broad enough to encompass situations in which the assailant is a casual acquaintance or a stranger.

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