Stalking Awareness Week 2019

– in the Scottish Parliament on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16208, in the name of Rona Mackay, on stalking awareness week 2019. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes Stalking Awareness Week, which takes place on 8 to 12 April 2019; recognises that the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has released a report,

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind - Two Years On

, which looks at the progress that statutory agencies have made to better protect victims of the crime of stalking and highlights best practice; understands that recorded offences of stalking have more than doubled since 2012 in Scotland, with young women being the most prevalent victims; notes the particular impact that stalking has on the mental health of victims, and commends Action Against Stalking for the support and advice it provides to victims.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I am pleased to have the opportunity to highlight stalking awareness week, which takes place from 8 to 12 April, and I thank all members across the chamber who supported my motion.

Imagine having to look over your shoulder at every waking moment and being afraid to look at your texts, check your emails or walk up to your own door. Stalking is a horrible, insidious crime that has a profound effect on victims, mentally and physically, and it can sometimes culminate in serious violence. A stalker’s actions—for example, sending flowers to the victim—may, at first glance, seem like a kind, romantic gesture, but such an action signifies, “I know where you live,” or “I know where you work.” It strikes fear into the victim’s heart.

The alarming news is that the number of reported incidents of stalking—it is a vastly underreported offence for reasons that I will explain—has doubled in the past five years. The latest figures from the 2017-18 Scottish crime and justice survey reveal that the number of stalking incidents has more than doubled since 2012, with a total of 1,376 reported stalking incidents in Scotland in 2017-18. One in four young women aged 16 to 24—26.9 per cent—has been a victim, and that is just those who reported it to the police, which is a fraction of the true figure. In 41 per cent of cases, the stalker was not known to the victim—they were a stranger stalker. I find that shocking.

The most common type of stalking and harassment is unwanted messages by text, email and messenger or posts on social media sites. The number of such incidents will only increase unless something is done to stop them.

Ann Moulds, the founder of the excellent charity Action Against Stalking, knows only too well the devastating effects of being a victim of stalking. Ann founded the charity after a horrific personal experience with a stalker. She has allowed me to tell her story to illustrate how it affected her life. She says:

“He was a sadistic sexual predatory stalker who chose to remain anonymous throughout his 2-year campaign of unrelenting terror and abuse.

This man, whoever he was, had forced himself into some delusional relationship with me without my knowing or my consent ... the impact this was having on every aspect of my life was every bit as cruel as the sickening act he wanted me to be a part of.

What started with a simple, but filthy, Valentines card in 2004 soon escalated to sexually deviant photographs, items of women’s lingerie posted to my home, and silent and disturbing phone calls in the middle of the night.

I knew he was watching me—he told me so—and letters outlined a slow and unfolding violent and sadistic fantasy of bondage, rape and torture that he believed would one day be his reality and I would enjoy it.

Such was his delusion he had even chosen his location. My stalker knew all about me but I knew nothing about him.

Eventually, too scared to go out, my home became my prison. His freedom became my incarceration. Living with constant fear, anxiety and uncertainty soon took its toll.

I was suffering from nervous exhaustion, I lost weight, my hair started to fall out, I suffered uncontrollable migraines and chest pains. I was scared I was going to have a heart attack ... or a stroke.

I didn’t think I would survive this and like a deck of cards, every aspect of my life slowly started to crumble and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

Presiding Officer, I think that more or less says it all about stalking. We must do more to protect victims of this offence before more people are terrorised.

To reduce the number of people who are stalked, we need to dramatically increase the number of convictions for stalking. In a landmark move, in 2014, the Crown Office and Police Scotland raised the profile of stalking to a priority-listed crime, which complements the recent wave of Scottish Government legislation that aims to tackle psychological harm. That legislation includes the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which came into force yesterday; it legislates against coercion and control and recognises that child witnesses of abuse are victims, too.

Stalking became an offence in Scotland in 2010. Prior to that, stalking was generally prosecuted using common-law offences such as breach of the peace. Currently, the only protection available to victims is a non-harassment order, which must be pursued through the civil courts, often at the victim’s own expense, at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Civil actions for NHOs are very rare, often because the victim simply cannot face a journey through the justice system at such a time or cannot afford it if they do not qualify for legal aid.

I am in the draft proposal stages of introducing a member’s bill that would allow the police to apply directly to a civil court for a stalking protection order on behalf of the victim. The order would prevent the harassment from escalating or continuing and would give victims much-needed protection. The order would last for a maximum of two years but could be renewed, and breach would be a criminal offence resulting in a custodial sentence. A similar bill was passed at Westminster last month, and victims living in Scotland must have the same protection. The Westminster bill related only to stranger stalking, but I propose that my bill would have a wider remit that would include partners and victims of domestic abuse, in relation to whom the incidence of stalking is extremely high.

Stalking has a severe, long-lasting and life-changing effect on its victims, who can suffer nightmares, panic attacks, guilt, thoughts of suicide, loneliness, fear and terror. Stalking can damage relationships with families, romantic relationships and relationships with friends and neighbours, and it can affect the victim’s career, finances and entire domestic life. It is something that no one should have to go through. We must stem the tide of this insidious crime now and send a clear message to stalkers that they will be stopped and prosecuted before more people’s lives are ruined.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I congratulate Rona Mackay on gaining cross-party support for her motion on stalking awareness week. I think that this is one of the best members’ business debates that we have had, and I am genuinely pleased to speak in it, because the issue is important and raising awareness is paramount.

I reflected on stalking when I read the 2017-18 Scottish crime and justice survey, which aimed to find out more about crimes that are not reported to the police. That is important, because we know that two thirds of crime goes unreported. At section 9.1 of the survey, respondents were asked whether they had experienced one or more of various incidents that are defined as stalking, which include having someone waiting outside their home or workplace on more than one occasion, being followed on more than one occasion and having intimate pictures shared without their consent. Incredibly, the survey found that more than 10 per cent of adults had experienced at least one type of stalking or harassment in the past year.

As the motion rightly flags, the survey also suggests that the issue appears to be gendered, with more than one in four women aged between 16 and 24 apparently having been the victim of stalking or harassment, and that recorded offences of stalking have more than doubled since 2012. Crucially, the survey tells us that only around one in 10 of those who were victims actually report it. Clearly, more needs to be done to protect victims of stalking, and that means looking at what can be done and at what we in the Parliament are doing to protect victims.

One incident that I had in mind when I was putting my speech together was reported in

The Courier recently. It involved a woman who was stalked following the tragic circumstances of her father’s death. The stalker taunted and harassed her in an horrific campaign, and he was eventually sentenced to 21 months in prison. However, on appeal, the sentence was ruled too severe and he was instead ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community, despite the fact that he knew where she lived, where she went to college and other personal things about her. One can only imagine the mental trauma for that poor woman on his release. As a Parliament, we must tread very carefully in relation to releasing criminals back into the community in those circumstances.

In that case, the stalker was brought in, questioned and sentenced but, in many other cases, complaints are lodged with the police and, for various reasons, nothing results. For example, a young woman who reported that she was being stalked at various places, including her workplace and on her walk home, lodged six complaints with the police but, according to the brave

Herald reporter who spoke out about his extraordinarily courageous daughter’s experience, the man was unfit to be interviewed, and because the social worker or an appropriate adult could not be located, there was no charge and no conviction. Therefore, the man could continue showing up at the girl’s place of work, which he did, and there was nothing that she or security could do to stop him.

To my mind, stories such as those and the sheer numbers of people who are victimised by stalking validate the importance of raising awareness of stalking. However, awareness is not enough. The motion rightly commends Action Against Stalking, but it is important to highlight that, just last week, the founder of that organisation said:

The Scottish Government need to raise their game.”

After pointing out that there is no dedicated strategy or dedicated funding and that the issue is not a priority for the Scottish Government, she went on: “That has to change.” Indeed. I associate myself with Rona Mackay’s comments in that regard. Perhaps the minister will address that point directly in closing the debate and show that change is coming.

Reading those women’s stories and recognising the prevalence of stalking convinces me of the value of raising awareness and of stalking awareness week. I hope that, following the debate, the Parliament can make substantial progress in raising awareness of the issue and ensuring that victims of stalking feel better protected, better able to come forward and better supported when they do so.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I congratulate my friend and colleague Rona Mackay on securing this evening’s important members’ business debate on stalking awareness week 2019. It is a particularly timely debate, as has been mentioned, given that yesterday marked the coming into force of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. The act criminalises, for the first time in Scotland, coercive and controlling behaviour.

Stalking is rooted in control, as its definition—to pursue or approach stealthily—conveys. The ways in which individuals can control others have long changed since Glenn Close’s infamous bunny boiling. These days, coercion often happens electronically, in ways that are far more difficult for traditional policing to intercept.

Members might remember the case of one of my constituents, which was reported on in August last year. My constituent’s ex-partner hounded her at her home in Fife. He took screenshots of private conversations on her phone and repeatedly sent her text and social media messages. He threatened to disclose sensitive information about her to her employer. He admitted to taking a photograph of her drying herself as she came out of the shower. He bombarded her with texts to tell her that he knew exactly where she was, after planting a mobile phone in the boot of her car. In short, he made her life a living hell by stalking her. In sentencing the accused last year, the sheriff described his actions as “sustained, sophisticated and sinister”. However, he avoided a jail sentence and was instead sentenced to 180 hours of community payback.

As has been said, Ann Moulds is the driving force behind Action Against Stalking, the only national dedicated stalking charity. Although Ann’s experience is different from that of my constituent, there are similarities. In last week’s

Evening Times

, Ann spoke about the community service order that was served on her stalker, saying:

“It wasn’t right ... My stalker got help to ‘rehabilitate’ him, and my life was a mess.”

Therefore, I am glad that last year the Cabinet Secretary for Justice gave a commitment to establishing a victims task force, which will take evidence directly from victims and victims groups on their experiences of the justice system.

Last year, my friend Mairi Gougeon MSP began another important part of the reform of stalking legislation. That work focuses on introducing stalking protection orders, with the police allowed to apply directly to the court when there is evidence of stalking. Currently, to secure a non-harassment order, victims themselves need to take legal action through the civil courts. There are obvious reasons why some victims of stalking would not want to do that, so I am delighted that Rona Mackay will now take those proposals forward.

As has been mentioned, just last week, figures from the Scottish crime and justice survey confirmed that more than one in four young women have been the victim of stalking or harassment in Scotland, with 26.9 per cent of females aged 16 to 24 experiencing at least one incident in the previous year. In Fife, 139 cases of stalking were reported to the police in 2017-18. However, most victims of stalking do not tell the police—only 9 per cent of cases were reported and recorded, which means that only around one in 10 told the police, as Liam Kerr mentioned. I hope that the Government will take the time to reflect on those figures, and I strongly encourage consideration of an education campaign to raise the profile of the offence of stalking, much like the work that the Scottish Government has done on domestic abuse and coercion in the past 12 months.

There is certainly a link between domestic abuse and stalking. Half of those who had experienced stalking and harassment had also experienced partner abuse. However, 41 per cent said that the offender was someone whom they had never met, so any education campaign would also need to consider the equal prevalence of stranger stalking, which has been mentioned and which is often enabled by technology. Indeed, 67 per cent of those who had experienced stalking or harassment last year had received unwanted messages by text or social media communications.

Ultimately, stalking is about control. Using an app to track someone’s movements, following their existence on social media and accessing their text messages remotely from another app are all ways that technology allows individuals to exert control over others. Fundamentally, however, stalking ruins lives. It creates fear and alarm, and it isolates people by causing anxiety. It is a crime. As MSPs, we all have a duty to remind the country of that message during stalking awareness week and beyond.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

I congratulate Rona Mackay on securing this important members’ business debate. I look forward to hearing more about her proposed member’s bill, because a victim should never be responsible for their own protection.

I also pay tribute to Ann Moulds from Action Against Stalking. Rona Mackay outlined Ann’s terrifying personal experience of stalking. Ann was instrumental in getting the law changed in Scotland such that stalking was made a crime.

I remember the first time I met Ann Moulds. She came to see me to persuade me to add stalking to my Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill. Stalking was recognised as a sinister act, but it was not a criminal offence in its own right, and it was dealt with through common law—as a breach of the peace, for example. I did not believe that my bill was the right place for it. However, the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill was going through Parliament at the time: it was a better vehicle with which to criminalise stalking.

We therefore worked on an amendment to that effect. Ann Moulds not only persuaded me to do that; she also persuaded the committee to accept the amendment. Members can imagine that there was reluctance to accept it, given that the committee had not taken evidence on stalking at stage 1, but she convinced the committee by her sheer tenacity. That made my job of getting the amendment through so much easier. Ann knew first hand about the terrifying nature of the crime, and she wanted to protect others from having to go through the trauma that she had gone through.

Stalking is an extremely difficult crime to define for legislation. Seemingly innocent actions can take on a sinister bearing just because of the context. As Rona Mackay said, a bunch of flowers, which would normally be welcome, can be absolutely terrifying.

I vividly remember one of the examples that I was given when I was working on the amendment that I mentioned. A woman left a note to herself on the kitchen table to buy a loaf of bread before she left for work. When she came home that night, the note had been replaced by a loaf of bread. In most circumstances, that would be a kind gesture, but it takes on a whole new meaning when we learn that she lived alone and was being stalked.

When something is sometimes a crime and sometimes not a crime, depending on the context, it is very hard to legislate for it. However, we achieved that with stalking.

The increase in cases of stalking is concerning. Some of that increase might be due to the fact that there is now legal protection, which makes such crimes easier to report and identify. That will account for some of the increase, but I believe that a lot more opportunities are available to those who would be stalkers. Jenny Gilruth talked about how new technology makes stalking much easier: social media help others to track people. The ability to do that can be helpful in the right context, but when stalking is involved, it can be terrifying.

It is also hard to identify both the crime and the perpetrator. As I have explained, actions that can be innocent can also be sinister. That makes it difficult to show that the actions are crimes.

Stalkers can be very devious. A stalker can be a stranger, or can be known to their victim. They can be very close to their victim, and they can get pleasure from watching the real distress that their actions can cause. In some cases, the stalker is an ex-partner. The relationship may not have been abusive, but the impact of ending it might have led to the ex-partner becoming a stalker. They might be unable to accept that the relationship is over. Stalking takes many forms and is therefore difficult to identify and cope with.

Ann Moulds not only changed the law: she also campaigns against stalking. To this day, she is providing, through Action Against Stalking, information, training and support to victims. Her work has provided a lifeline to others, so I commend her for it.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I, too, congratulate Rona Mackay on securing the debate for stalking awareness week, which is next week. I am making this speech on behalf of a number of women in my constituency who have raised the issue with me. I thank East Ayrshire Women’s Aid and, of course, Ann Moulds of Action Against Stalking, who has been mentioned already, for taking the time to provide valuable briefings for the debate.

Under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, a stalking offence occurs when

“A person ... engages in a course of conduct ... on at least two occasions” that causes another person to feel “fear or alarm”, and where the accused person intended, knew or ought to have known that their conduct would cause fear or alarm.

Ann Moulds’s pioneering work has become internationally recognised. Most notably, it contributed to the 2010 act. It has subsequently been adopted in England and Wales and has been included in the Council of Europe’s Istanbul treaty. Huge credit is therefore due to Ann and her organisation for leading the way on the issue.

As recently as 2016-17, the Scottish crime survey highlighted that only 20 per cent of victims chose to report stalking to the police. It is important to remember how low that figure is. It is clear that there is an opportunity to improve awareness and to offer encouragement to people to report what is, in fact, a criminal offence.

In my discussion with East Ayrshire Women’s Aid, it advised that, in its experience, stalking is most often perpetrated by former and current partners. Of the 300 to 400 women who are supported by East Ayrshire Women’s Aid each year, a significant number experience continued harassment after they leave an abusive partner.

The continuing public perception is that stalking is limited to somebody following a person about, turning up at their home and causing fear and alarm with their presence. However, it is important to be clear that stalking comes in many forms—not only physical ones. Unwanted phone calls—whether completed or not—continue to be used as a means of intimidation and, sadly, the digital and social media revolution provides an easy route for stalkers to gain access to their victims.

As Jenny Gilruth said, according to the recently released crime and justice survey’s findings, 67 per cent of victims experienced stalking that used social media, text and messaging systems to intimidate them. Ayrshire Women’s Aid advises that some reported experiences have included trackers on phones or cars and hacking of Facebook accounts. Stalking has, indeed, gone digital.

I know that the police in East Ayrshire undergo online training to recognise the offence of stalking, and they have annual practical training in recognising the offence. Police Scotland in East Ayrshire has advised that, as a result of that training, more than 90 per cent of stalking cases that are reported to them result in the perpetrator being charged, although the numbers of victims who come forward are still pretty low. That is an encouraging statistic, and I hope that it gives the public confidence to report instances of stalking. However, in East Ayrshire in 2018-19 there were only 23 recorded crimes of stalking and 16 detections of the crime, which perhaps confirms that more needs to be done.

Scotland has been at the forefront of criminalising stalking and championing the rights of victims of stalking—women and men. It is good to recognise that Action Against Stalking continues to deliver much-needed support and advice, not only for victims but for the statutory agencies. The organisation knows that we are only beginning to understand the impact of stalking. It can and does have a severe and long-term psychological impact on victims, some of whom relocate and change jobs to escape and feel safe again.

The maximum penalty under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 act is five years, and the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 can carry a 14-year sentence, yet both acts place psychological harm as the governing criteria in establishing the offence. That is probably something for the Government to reflect on as we move forward.

I thank Rona Mackay again for bringing this important matter to the attention of Parliament.

Photo of Oliver Mundell Oliver Mundell Conservative

I join other members in thanking Rona Mackay for enabling the motion to be discussed, and for her powerful and moving opening speech. The work that she is doing on the issue is to be commended, and I will be interested in considering her bill more fully when it is introduced.

It has been interesting to listen to all the speeches from across the chamber. The same themes have popped up again and again. Very few members will not be aware, from their constituency work, of individuals—particularly women—who have been the victims of stalking. Members will know how difficult it can be to ensure that support is in place for those individuals when they need it most.

One of the most frustrating things is that a lot of people think of some aspects of stalking that have been mentioned, such as flowers or photographs, as trivial, funny or—I have heard this suggested—quite flattering. In listening to members’ contributions and hearing conversations during my constituency work, it has been clear to me that people do not find such actions pleasant or trivial. In fact, they can make people’s lives a misery.

We must ensure that that message gets out. Today’s debate is a really good way of sending the signal that people in this Parliament, and throughout the criminal justice system, take stalking seriously and recognise that it destroys people’s lives and takes away their rights and dignity, so that they are unable to enjoy the same freedoms that the rest of us do.

That takes me to another point that I have picked up in the debate, which is about the different forms that stalking takes. Willie Coffey and Rona Mackay mentioned the online element to stalking. When people hear what others are subjected to in that context, stalking takes on a whole new meaning. As a member of the Justice Committee, I heard evidence from women who had been bombarded with messages to the extent that there was no time in the day when they did not hear from people threatening them and passing comment. There is something very sinister about that, particularly when people do not know who is at the other end of the messages. That is a reason for us to redouble our efforts.

Another worrying point is the fact that people do not feel confident in reporting such behaviour. I do not know the reasons for that, but I would impress upon the Government the importance of its going away, doing some work and finding out why people feel unable to report stalking and why it is such a poorly recorded crime. If we do not have the right data and we do not understand the barriers to stalking being reported, it is very difficult for us to take action and to ensure that the education and awareness campaigns target those who need them most.

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

I, too, congratulate Rona Mackay on securing this members’ business debate on stalking. She made a thought-provoking speech, which brought vividly to life the serious impact that stalking can have on people’s lives, including their mental health. Indeed, a number of members, including Jenny Gilruth, Rhoda Grant and Willie Coffey, mentioned stalking’s insidious and sinister nature.

A few days after the Scottish crime and justice survey revealed the extent of stalking behaviour that takes place, and ahead of next week’s national stalking awareness week, it is right that the Parliament has the chance to debate this important issue. We know that stalking is experienced by many people across the country and that it can completely disrupt a victim’s life, as we have heard this evening.

We should acknowledge that, in the past, the justice system might not always have taken the issue sufficiently seriously. The individual actions of a stalker, seen in isolation, might have seemed trivial to some and not the business of the police or the courts. Behaviour such as constantly making unwanted phone calls or sending text messages, following the victim between their home and work, or leaving unwanted gifts might not necessarily appear to pose an immediate danger to the victim, but when that behaviour continues for days, weeks, months or even years on end, it can seriously interfere with a victim’s ability to go about their daily life. We know that such behaviour can be motivated by obsession or fixation and, in the most extreme cases, it can be the precursor to serious assault, rape or even murder.

It is important to reflect on how far we have come in a relatively short time in recognising the seriousness of stalking. The work that has been done by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Action Against Stalking has been crucial in raising awareness of the seriousness of stalking and changing public attitudes towards it. The Parliament led the way across the United Kingdom with the introduction in 2010 of a specific criminal offence of stalking. That has helped Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to deal more effectively with stalking and harassment; it has also helped to raise awareness that stalking is a criminal offence.

Members have highlighted the impact that stalking can have on the mental health of survivors. The focus of this year’s national stalking awareness week is on stalking as a public health issue. In June 2018, the Deputy First Minister announced a three-year funding package of £1.35 million, which will be invested to create a national trauma training programme, to support more than 5,000 front-line workers across all sectors of the Scottish workforce who are responding to psychological trauma.

We are always open to considering what further improvements might be needed to improve the law. I am aware that Rona Mackay is considering a proposal for a member’s bill on stalking protection orders. I am keen to see the detail of that bill, and we will give it careful consideration at that point.

Police Scotland delivers training in dealing with stalking and harassment within its investigators development programme. Further, a multiagency short-life working group is considering the implementation of a new model of risk assessment and management for stalking, which will examine the opportunity to improve police training on the dynamics of stalking and harassment and on the tactics that are used by stalkers. All the guidance and training recognise that reported incidents should be viewed within the context of a pattern of behaviours and not in isolation.

Members have highlighted during the debate the importance of ensuring that victims of stalking receive appropriate support. A number of organisations in Scotland are involved in supporting stalking victims and survivors. Victim Support Scotland supports people who are victims of crime, whether reported or unreported, and that includes helping victims of stalking. The Scottish women’s rights centre provides free legal information, advice and representation to women survivors of stalking, with services being made available through a national helpline and at local legal surgeries. Scottish Women’s Aid and local women’s aid services provide support to survivors of domestic abuse, which can also involve stalking. Further, Scotland’s forced marriage and domestic abuse helpline operates 24 hours a day. All those organisations are involved in the Scottish national stalking group, together with the Crown Office, Police Scotland and Action Against Stalking. The group aims to improve responses to victims and survivors of stalking in Scotland.

I am aware that Action Against Stalking has called for funding for a specific support service for victims of stalking—I believe that Liam Kerr mentioned that this evening. The Scottish Government is in dialogue with Action Against Stalking to understand better what further support might be needed in that area. I can update members on that at a later date.

We know that, although stalking can affect men and women, the Scottish crime and justice survey, which was published on 26 March, shows that women are much more likely to report being persistently stalked by a single perpetrator. It also shows that women are twice as likely as men to report being stalked by a partner, and three times as likely to report having been stalked by someone they have gone on a date with. That shows that, often, the stalking of women can be seen as part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence.

Within the context of the equally safe strategy on violence against women and girls, the Scottish Government is working with schools, colleges and universities to ensure that they have the appropriate tools and resources to address the issue of sexual harassment and to support children and young people who might be experiencing gender-based violence. Last year, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science launched the equally safe in higher education toolkit, which provides resources for institutions to tackle gender-based violence.

The Scottish Government is also supportive of the development and roll-out of a smartphone app called Followlt, which was designed by the Scottish women’s rights centre. The app was originally developed with funding from Foundation Scotland, the Nominet Trust and Comic Relief, with input from survivors, victims organisations, Police Scotland and the Crown Office. The app allows victims to accurately log stalking incidents so that they have a complete record of the offending behaviour. Funding from the Scottish Government has supported the development of awareness-raising materials about the app, a victims’ feedback process and the delivery of training to statutory and voluntary organisations by the Scottish women’s rights centre that will support and improve multiagency responses to stalking. In addition, a specialist sexual harassment solicitor, funded by the Scottish Government and the Rosa fund, will operate the Scottish women’s rights centre’s new sexual harassment legal service. Further, in 2019, the Scottish Government will be supporting a national public campaign to raise awareness about sexual harassment.

This has been a good debate, with thought-provoking speeches from across the chamber. It is clear that, although Scotland has moved a long way in recent years with regard to recognising and addressing stalking behaviour, there is always more than can be done, and we will seek to do everything that we can to help to protect people from the horrific effects that stalking behaviour can have.

Meeting closed at 17:39.