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What is personal safety and stalking?

Feeling safe is a basic human right. Laws are in place to protect a person’s safety from physical or mental harm caused by people who are not related family members.

The Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (link below) prohibits the following types of behaviour:

  • assault
  • sexual assault
  • harassment
  • property damage or interference
  • making a serious threat
  • stalking.

Assault

Assault means any application of force to another intended to inflict bodily injury, pain, discomfort, damage, insult or deprivation of liberty.

Harassment

Harassment means a course of conduct by one person towards another person that is demeaning, derogatory or intimidating. It explicitly includes conduct that is carried on through a third person.

Property damage or interference

The property damage or interference must be repeated and intentional to fall within the scope of the Act. One off and inadvertent property damage or interference (such as accidentally damaging a person’s car) does not constitute prohibited behaviour and grounds for a personal safety intervention order.

A serious threat

A serious threat means a threat to kill or to inflict serious injury as defined in the Crimes Act 1958. 'Serious injury' includes a combination of injuries or the destruction of an unborn baby.

What is stalking?

Stalking is serious intentional pursuit type behaviour causing physical or mental harm to a person or arousing their apprehension or fear for their personal safety or the safety of someone else. It can include:

  • following a person
  • contacting a person by post, fax, phone, text, email or by any other means
  • publishing information about a person (or pretending to be that person) on the internet, by email or other electronic means
  • hacking into a person's computer
  • tracking a person's use of the internet, email, phone or other electronic communication
  • hanging around outside a person's home, business or other place where that person habitually goes
  • interfering with property in the possession of another person
  • making threats
  • using offensive words (to, or in the presence of) another person
  • performing abusive acts (to or in the presence of) another person
  • directing offensive acts towards another person
  • giving offensive material to another person or leaving it where it will be found by, or drawn to the attention of that other person
  • keeping a person under surveillance
  • acting in any way that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental harm to the other person, including self-harm or making the person feel apprehension or fear for their safety.

Did the person intend to cause harm?

The person who is alleged to have been stalking another person may be found to have intended to cause physical or mental harm (including self-harm) to that person if:

  • the person knew that engaging in this kind of conduct would be likely to cause harm or arouse such apprehension or fear, or
  • if, all circumstances considered, the person ought to have understood that engaging in that conduct would be likely to cause such harm or arouse apprehension or fear and it did actually have that result.

Mental harm

Mental harm includes psychological harm and suicidal thoughts.

Penalty

These kinds of behaviours are also listed under the Crimes Act 1958 where the maximum penalty is 10 years jail.

Exemptions

Conduct that may otherwise be defined as stalking or harassment is exempt if it is done while a person is performing the following official duties:

  • enforcing the criminal law
  • administering an Act of parliament
  • issuing a fine
  • executing a warrant
  • protecting public revenue.

Mental harm

Mental harm includes psychological harm and suicidal thoughts.

Penalty

These kinds of behaviours (including stalking) are also listed under the Crimes Act 1958 where the maximum penalty is 10 years jail.

Exemptions

Conduct that may otherwise be defined as stalking or harassment is exempt if it is done while a person is performing the following official duties:

  • enforcing the criminal law
  • administering an Act of parliament
  • issuing a fine
  • executing a warrant
  • protecting public revenue.

More information

Legislation

Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic)

  • s. 5—the meaning of prohibited behaviour
  • s. 6—the meaning of assault and sexual assault
  • s. 7—the meaning of harassment
  • s. 8—the meaning of property damage or interference
  • s. 9—the meaning of serious threat
  • s. 10—the meaning of stalking
  • s. 10(3)—defines mental harm to include suicidal thoughts
  • s. 11—exemptions

See Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic).

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

  • s. 15—defines a serious injury as a combination of injuries or the destruction of a foetus (excludes a medical procedure)
  • s.21A—defines stalking

See Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Magistrates' Court

The Magistrates' court site has information about personal safety and an application form to apply for an order.

See Magistrates' Court—About personal safety intervention orders.

VLA website

This site has information provided by our professional support lawyers to assist lawyers when they are giving advice to adult suspects. Scroll down to the 'Offence snapshots for duty lawyers' under 'Practice updates and materials'.

  • Stalking
  • Assaults

See Information for lawyers—Practice resources—Criminal law resources.

Updated