How to beat a stalker: have him stalked

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A London private detective agency is turning the tables on stalkers - by stalking them.

The MC Investigations Agency, which introduced its "anti-stalking" service nine months ago, claims it has dealt with four cases non-aggressively, by showing the offender how it feels to be stalked.

"It's a psychologically based technique in that stalkers like to feel they are in the driving seat. We try to reverse the roles so that the victim feels they're taking back control," said "Mark", head of the agency.

Speaking to The Independent as controversy raged over the legal difficulties that led to the acquittal on Tuesday of a south London man who had been accused of stalking a female restaurant manager, Mark said the first step was to get as much information as possible about the stalker. This can be easy if the stalker is known to the victim, but can entail more time- consuming methods like call tracing and fingerprinting.

He gave the example of a recent case - a "classic" scenario of the bullied woman, whose partner couldn't let go. "He would watch her and ring her 30 times a day, he would come round and try to gain access to the house and threaten her when she refused," he said. As with many cases, he said, the police could only do so much because of the difficulty in proving psychological harm. "And in many cases the woman feels she's to blame and she sits back and takes it all," he said.

The key, he said, was to find "the chink in the stalker's armour" - in this case he was a foreign national who needed a visa to stay in the country. "After we had done our background work, we snapped various time-dated photographs of him and sent them to him. After a while I rang him up and told him that I'd been hired by someone known to this girl and that we understood he wanted to stay, in which case he was going to have to stop."

At first, he said, the stalker was "a bit cocky", so they sent more photographs and began tailing him. "He stopped immediately. He knew we were following him and he didn't like it," he said. "He told people that someone was trying to ruin his life and that he had never wanted to do her any harm."

The agency believes it is the element of surprise that is effective, as it transfers the feeling of control from stalker to victim. "We've never had an aggressive reaction. But you've got to know the person you're dealing with," Mark said. "You can't rush into it because you wouldn't want to take actions that resulted in harm to the client. It's a non-aggressive method. If we felt there was any danger at all we would call the police as well."

In this case, the woman has not heard from her stalker in five months. Freedom cost her pounds 500 - a relatively cheap price for a relatively simple case.

What was needed, however, was a change in the law, Mark said. "The UK is still so far behind the US in its treatment of stalkers, as [Tuesday's] case shows. This girl has a right to privacy, but what now can the police do?"