Will the court protect the victim or the abuser?
Will the court take action against a stalker using the court system to abuse his victim?
Digital-Trust is watching the latest stalking case involving victims’ right campaigner Claire Waxman who has been stalked for 12 years by Elliot Fogel.
Claire Waxman nightmare began in 2003 when her former classmate Elliot Fogel began stalking her. In 2005 Fogel received a life time restraining order. Fogel is being prosecuted at Harrow Crown Court during a three day trial. This is the fourth time Fogel has been prosecuted for a breach of the restraining order. He has previously received a suspended sentence, 16 week and two years custodial sentence.
This is first case the CPS has prosecuted against Fogel since Waxman won a landmark case against the CPS for not previously prosecuting Fogel.
Using the court system is a common tactic by stalkers. They take out vexatious court actions in order to continue their abuse and to force victims into contact with them. Fogel used this tactic in 2006 and 2011, when he brought a county court action against Waxman. In 2011, Fogel was charged for a breach of the restraining order but the CPS dropped the prosecution claiming he had a legal right to access the civil courts.
Waxman took legal action against the CPS for failing to prosecute Fogel’s breach as she believed this was a breach of her human rights. In February 2012, her application at The Royal Courts of Justice was upheld and she won her case against the CPS. It was a landmark victory which showed the value of the Human Rights Act in protecting Victims of crime. (see summary of ruling)
The current case against Fogel is that he breached the restraining order when he sought to get an injunction against Ms Waxman to stop her speaking about her stalking experience, the abuse she received and the impact on her life.
“This is important case for all stalking victims, it is important that breaches of restraining orders are vigorously up held in order to secure the safety of victims and stop stalkers continuing their campaigns against their victims”, said Harry Fletcher, Criminal Justice Director, Digital-Trust.
This case has highlighted the need for psychiatric treatment for persistent stalkers and Frank Farnham, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist and clinical lead for Fixated Threat Assessment Centre and the National Stalking Clinic said “psychiatric treatment of stalkers would benefit them and their victims. We need the courts to recommend the specialist treatment that we provide at the National Stalking Clinic”.
The Digital-Trust is currently campaigning for a Courts Co-operation, Enforcement and Family Courts Amendment Bill. This new Bill would include:
- If a person found guilty of 2 or more breaches of a restraining order against the same or multiple victims, there shall be a presumption of a custodial sentence unless there is a reasonable excuse.
- There shall be a duty on the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that all breaches of restraining orders in respect of the same victim are the subject of criminal proceedings unless it would be unreasonable to do so.
The case against Fogel is scheduled for three days. It is due to conclude on Friday 24th April 2015 which also happens to fall during National Stalking Awareness Week.
Need for a Victims’ Rights Bill
Currently, victims’ rights are not consistently represented in the criminal justice system. Waxman whose organisation, Voice4Victims, campaigns for rights of victims is working with Digital-Trust to introduce a Victims Rights Bill (see draft: www.digital-trust.org/victims-bill.
The Bill places a responsibility on the Secretary of State to publish a victim’s legal framework and outlines over 25 specific rights for victims under the following key areas:
- Parental rights
- Vexatious Claims
- Compensation & Costs
Claire Waxman has also started a campaign called 'Restoring the Balance' to address the legal loopholes that perpetrators exploit in order to abuse their victims further and force contact with them.