UK

Stalking victim warns of legal loophole

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Media captionClaire Waxman explains how Elliot Fogel tried to silence her

Stalkers must be stopped from using a loophole in the legal system to harass their targets, a victim has said.

Elliot Fogel, who was jailed on Tuesday for breaching a restraining order, had stalked Claire Waxman for 12 years.

Despite the order, he had tried to sue her in the civil courts by claiming she had defamed him in media interviews.

Ms Waxman said criminal and civil courts must work more closely together. The Ministry of Justice said it was working to address the concerns.

Fogel, 40, had:

  • posed as a prospective parent at her child's nursery
  • searched her name in Google more than 40,000 times in one year
  • made hundreds of late-night phone calls

Force contact

And on Tuesday, the former television producer from Edgware, in north London, was given a three-and-a-half year jail sentence at Harrow Crown Court over his attempts to sue Ms Waxman for defamation in the civil courts.

He had claimed she had defamed him in various media interviews in 2012, including one with Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 live, in which she had discussed his previous conviction for breaching a restraining order.

The court found that he had breached the order again by obtaining and keeping information on her.

On Wednesday, Ms Waxman, 38, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that Fogel had gone through her previous interview "word-by-word, of everything I said, and disputed it [in court]".

"I think he just uses anything in order to force contact with me," she added.

Courage

When asked why Fogel had been allowed to take his defamation claim to the civil courts, Ms Waxman - a victims' rights campaigner from Willesden in north-west London - said: "There's no joined-up approach between the civil and the criminal courts.

"So whatever's going on in the criminal court, the civil courts aren't aware of it."

She said she could have faced a County Court judgement if she had ignored the claims.

She described it as a "clever tactic", adding that as many as one in 12 stalking victims who contacted the National Stalking Helpline had experienced the same issue.

"When a victim gets the courage to speak up and speak out, [whether] it's to their friends for support or police, that's often when stalkers will respond in this way," she said.

"All perpetrators want to silence their victims. [Fogel] wants to silence me, control me with his stalking. I refuse to be silenced any more."

As part of Fogel's current sentence, his restraining order now prevents him from accessing the civil courts without the permission of a judge.

"That's what I'd like to see across the board for all stalking victims," Ms Waxman said.

Victims' rights

Her organisation, Voice4Victims, is working with the Digital Trust to introduce a victims' rights bill "to protect victims from this abuse [of the civil courts]".

It is concerned not just with stalking victims, but those "being abused through family court orders, family courts and civil courts".

It had a first reading in March but would need an MP or party's support for it to be taken any further once Parliament is recalled following the election.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Judges have the power to take strong action against anyone who attempts to use the justice system to harass or victimise others.

"We are aware of the concerns regarding this case and are working hard to ensure they are addressed."

Ms Waxman said Fogel's harassment had had a "huge impact" on her life.

"Stalking is a psychological crime," she said. "It's a crime of great terror, and it's not often recognised.

"If you don't have bruises and there's not physical violence, people aren't understanding the huge psychological impact it has on your life."

Victoria Derbyshire is broadcast weekdays from 09:15-11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News channel. Follow the programme on Facebook and Twitter, and find all our content online.

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