Shining a light on stalking in Queensland
Thursday, 28 May 2020
More people than ever are being sentenced in Queensland courts for stalking.
Research released today by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council reveals the number of stalking cases has risen by almost 50 per cent since 2005, increasing from 113 cases in 2005-06 to 169 cases of stalking in 2018-19.
Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council Chair, John Robertson, said the Council’s new Sentencing Spotlight on stalking examined sentencing outcomes data between July 2005 and June 2019 with a total of 1,698 cases sentenced where stalking was the most serious offence heard at the sentencing event. *
“Stalking is a very serious crime – it’s that unwanted attention that frightens someone, causes them mental harm, makes them believe they or their property are in danger, or prevents them from going freely about their daily life,” Mr Robertson said.
“Stalking can take on many different shapes and forms including following, loitering near, watching or approaching a person; contacting a person in any way, including by phone, mail, email or through the use of any technology; leaving an offensive item where it will be found by, or given to a person; and threatening or committing acts of violence against them or their property.
“In Queensland, the maximum penalty for stalking is five years’ imprisonment but if there are aggravating circumstances — like using or intentionally threatening violence — that can increase to seven years’ imprisonment.”
The Council’s Sentencing Spotlight on stalking shows the most common penalty for stalking between July 2005 and June 2019 was imprisonment, with 31 per cent of offenders receiving an unsuspended sentence, and the average sentence length being 1.4 years in jail.
Mr Robertson said the youngest person in Queensland sentenced for stalking was 13 years old and the oldest was 81 years old.
“The ‘average’ stalking offender is a male in his 30s,” Mr Robertson said.
Over the period examined, females were responsible for slightly more than 14 per cent of the stalking offences and on average were 36 years old at the time of the offence.
The data shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were sentenced for committing 142 stalking offences during the 13-year period, accounting for 8.4 per cent of the overall offences.
“Each May, Queensland marks Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month to raise awareness of the social and personal impacts this insidious behaviour has on our community,” Mr Robertson said.
“Our Sentencing Spotlight on stalking reveals that contravention of a domestic violence order is the most common associated offence with stalking.
“Stalking causes apprehension and fear of violence, both of which are very present in domestic and family violence offences.”
Queensland legislation changed in December 2015 and May 2016 to strengthen the justice system’s response to offences occurring in the context of domestic and family violence.
As a result of the 2015 reforms, stalking that occurs in a domestic violence context is recorded or entered on a person’s criminal history as a domestic violence offence.
From 5 May 2016, courts must treat the fact an offence (including a stalking offence) is a domestic violence offence as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing, unless the court considers this is not reasonable because of the exceptional circumstances of the case.
Download a free copy of the Sentencing Spotlight on stalking .
* A total of 1,594 individuals were sentenced for 2,155 cases involving a stalking offence between 2005–06 and 2018–19. For 1,698 (78.8%) of those cases, stalking was the most serious offence (MSO) heard at the sentencing event. This Sentencing Spotlight focuses primarily on the 1,698 cases where stalking was the MSO.