Could Jamie Dornan be prosecuted for stalking?

    Could Jamie Dornan be prosecuted for stalking?

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    Photo from the Guardian

    Introduction
    Jamie Dornan, star of 50 Shades of Grey, caused a bit of a stir on 1st April when he stated in an interview that he had got into his role as a serial killer in tv show The Fall by stalking someone.

    Has he just admitted a crime? Should he be consulting a lawyer?

    A bit more detail
    This comes from an interview with the LA Times. The relevant part is as follows –

    On the tube … — Dornan began with his anecdote before stopping himself.

    “Can we get arrested for this? Hold on … this is a really bad reveal: I, like, followed a woman off the train one day to see what it felt like to pursue someone like that.”

    Dornan said he kept his distance from his target, and once she reached her stop, lurked behind her for a couple of blocks“.

     

    The Law
    This is contained in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. In brief, there are two offences – harassment, and harassment putting somebody in fear of violence.

    The problem here is that harassment requires a ‘course of conduct’, in other words conduct on more than one occasion. For that reason, it is clear that what Mr Dornan did does not constitute harassment (as he did it only once).

    There is a separate offence of ‘stalking’ that was introduced in s111 Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. This requires a course of harassment where ‘the acts or omissions are associated with stalking’.

    Again, this does not come in to that definition. In any event, Season 1 of The Fall was shown in May 2013 so was presumably made a fair bit in advance of this. The new offence of stalking came in to force on 25th November 2012, so it is likely that Mr Dornan’s actions were before that.

    Further, harassment under s2 and stalking are both ‘summary only’ offences. This means that they have to be prosecuted within 6 months of them happening, so this would be time barred in any event.

    This is not to say that what Mr Dornan did was morally correct – it is not clear if the woman that he followed was aware that she was being followed (he states that he was a long way behind, and this is London – in all likelihood, plenty of people would have got out of the tube with him and would have been walking), but even if not, it is still taking method acting a bit to far.

    However, it is pretty clear that what he did was not stalking and was not illegal.

     

    Conclusion
    So, whilst stalking (and harassment more generally) is definitely illegal, what Mr Dornan did is not.

    A man more cynical than I would suggest that this had more to do with generating headlines for his new show than anything else.

    But the short answer to the question is “no”.

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    Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

    10 COMMENTS

    1. A single act of stalking is gong to be exceptionally difficult to prove, isn’t it? If the alleged stalker has a remotely plausible reason for walking along the same street as the complainant it’s difficult to see the CPS pursuing it. Even more so down the passages of an Underground station.

      • Yes, you need it more than once. And, as you say, walking down the same street of someone you don’t know on one occasion is far removed from stalking.

    2. What about following a different individual woman on each occasion, targetting a different one getting off the tube/bus each time. Surely harassment and stalking no?

      • There needs to be a course of conduct against each victim, so this wouldn’t be (it could raise other legal issues of course).

    3. Dan I think you mean a course of conduct, not a code of conduct. Suggesting there might a code of conduct about how to harass people might not do L-E-S’s blood pressure much good.

      Seriously, LibEgSor, who could such a thing be known about, proved, or prosecuted? If a man “follows” you off the bus you either lose him in the crowd, in which case you will never know whether he was following you; or he turns off from where you were going, in which case he was not following you; or when you get where you were going he walks past and goes on his way, in which case you don’t know whether you have defeated his attempt to follow you or there never was an attempt, he was just going about his lawful business which for a time took him in the same direction as yours took you. In any case you do not know whether he has done the same before or might do it again. Short of telescreens with face recognition and computer analysis watching every street in the land – jsut what do you expect?

    4. Hello Andrew, and Happy Easter to you (and to you Dan)
      I’m entirely happy with telescreens, face recognition and computer analysis. Congratulations on an excellent proposal, I’ll make a feminist of you yet. I also liked Dan’s suggestion of a code of conduct for stalking and harassment, not sure about the appropriate penalty for breaching it! During my misspent youth where I blew my taxi fare home on another drink & kebab and thus having to walk home means I know when I’m being followed. I’d slow down to a snails pace, if the person(s) behind me doesn’t either get closer because I’m slower or catches up and overtakes me but rather stays x amount of feet behind me. It tells me something is not right and it’s incredibly frightening the internal dialogue of fight or flight. The problem is often not that you don’t know you’re being followed but getting anyone to take it seriously and what to do about it at the time which is how the predatory, serial stalker/harasser gets away with it.

      • Likewise – Happy Easter.

        A blanket surveillance state terrifies me I have to say.

        You can’t criminalise following someone once, without causing all sorts of problems. I remember being taught to cross the road whenever I was walking in the dark behind a single woman, to show that I wasn’t a threat. I’m not sure if that worked at all, but I still do it (on the rare occasions I’m out so late the streets are near deserted)?

    5. I recently found myself behind a young woman on a dark night on a road with no pavement on the other side. I decided the least worst was to speed up, hurry past, get ahead, and then slow down (and get my breath back!) – she might be frightened as I approached but better than that keep her in fear longer by remaining behind her. Was I right, Liberte?

      Enjoy your Easter break too and nil illegitimis carborundum, which you will remember means Don’t let the bastards grind you own.

    6. You were right Andrew, also guys have passed me quickly and stepped into the road (kerbside) a big hint they intend no harm. And thank you, I won’t.

      Dan was too either helps on a dark street when one’s imagination is already working overtime.

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