Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has proposed 43 reforms to Victoria’s stalking laws, policing framework and victim support in a submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s stalking inquiry.
The DHJP believes flaws in current legislation and its interpretation undermine the seriousness of stalking.
It asks the VLRC to consider proactive reforms modelled on The Netherlands’ move in 2015 to strengthen police awareness of stalking risks and set up a data-driven system to trigger offender alerts.
The Dutch policing framework includes:
- Continued education and training for all police officers in stalking behaviours, ‘red flags’ and actions.
- An algorithm-based checking system designed to ensure no stalking cases are missed or misidentified. This digital trawl of all police information management systems flags cases logged in the previous 24 hours for certain words and phrases. The cross-referenced data is then checked by an officer who assesses whether any cases are stalking-related but may not have been marked as such when logged.
- A Screening Assessment for Stalking and Harassment (SASH) tool refined by Australian, British and Swedish clinicians and researchers that weighs victim and stalker risks of persistent, escalating and violent stalking.
- An enhanced communication and co-operation case management system where a single police officer case-manages an allegation to completion, and is responsible for notifying agencies that should be involved, such as child protection services.
The DHJP also recommends the immediate expansion of Victoria’s fledgling Victims’ Legal Service that was funded in the 2021-22 State Budget as a result of its MPs’ advocacy.
The party says an expanded service should provide information, advice and support for victim-survivors of stalking throughout the criminal trial process.
Other recommendations in the submission include:
- Separating personal safety intervention orders (PSIOs) into different streams, including one specifically for stalking cases.
- Increasing the maximum penalty for stalking offenders.
- Allowing stalkers’ previous behaviours to be admissible in court, particularly pre-sentence reports.
- If adopted, naming these changes ‘Celeste’s Law’ in memory of Celeste Manno, a young Victorian who was brutally murdered, allegedly by an ex-work colleague, in November 2020.
The full submission will be available online. Submissions to the inquiry close on August 17.
Stalking crimes often affect their victims in unimaginable ways.
An offender will watch their victim’s every move, and victims have to change their lifestyle and make countless sacrifices to stay safe, including installing cameras or moving house. Stalking can change the lives of victim-survivors forever.
Having worked with many victim-survivors of stalking crimes, it’s obvious that our current system isn’t working and that the reporting and judicial processes can often be as traumatising as the crimes themselves.
I thank the VLRC for its work and hope it considers implementing our party’s recommendations.
Stuart Grimley MP:
We are extremely proud of this submission, which goes some way in honouring the victim-survivors of stalking we have worked with and those who aren’t here to contribute.
We’re grateful our Victims Legal Service was partially funded, though it is very limited in the services it can currently provide. Supports and legal advice for stalking victim-survivors should be part of the future expansion of the service.
We hope that the VLRC will look closely at these recommendations to ensure our system responds adequately – and proactively – to stalking crime in the future.