A qualitative enquiry into the threshold of acceptable behaviour on the internet: perceptions of police officers and prosecutors on the barriers to successful investigation and prosecution of cyberstalkers

Igwe, Ori (2020) A qualitative enquiry into the threshold of acceptable behaviour on the internet: perceptions of police officers and prosecutors on the barriers to successful investigation and prosecution of cyberstalkers. Doctoral thesis, Univeristy of West London.

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Abstract

Cyberstalking is a cyber-enabled crime which can be difficult to investigate and prosecute because offenders engage in the conduct in cyber space. The purpose of this study is to highlight the difficulties which police officers and prosecutors perceive hinder them in the investigation and prosecution of cyberstalkers. The study identifies solutions to the perceived difficulties and makes recommendations.
The research participants consisted of 50 London prosecutors and 25 police officers. Participants provided data on the topic under investigation in their roles as the primary law enforcement officials who investigate and prosecute cyberstalkers. A Member of Parliament, probation official and Northern Ireland government policy adviser were also interviewed because they provided data from the perspectives of government and probation officials.
The qualitative research method of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was considered most appropriate because the study investigated the lived human experiences of the participants and their perceptions of the topic under investigation. Emergent themes were identified from the numerous interview transcripts and analysed to explore the experiences of the participants in relation to the research questions.
The research identified various perceived thresholds for distinguishing rudeness, abuse and unpleasant comments on the internet from cyberstalking. Additionally, the study 6 perceived law enforcement issues which frustrate police officers and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of cyberstalkers were identified. The research further revealed that lack of resources, lack of knowledge and evidential difficulties are perceived to impede the investigation and prosecution of cyberstalkers. Importantly, the study found that factors such as shortage of manpower, heavy caseloads, anonymity of cyberstalkers and victim behaviour can prevent police officers from risk assessing victims.
The thesis therefore makes recommendations for the recruitment of additional staff, the regular training of police officers and prosecutors on cyberstalking and the education of victims by police officers of the risks posed by cyberstalkers and the implications of not supporting the prosecution of offenders. Importantly, the thesis recommends that police officers should be trained on how to identify, monitor and manage the risks posed by anonymous and mentally ill cyberstalkers.
The recommendation for the CPS is based on the researcher’s personal view of the research. The researcher concedes that the research was conducted at a specific time and that a limited number of prosecutors were interviewed for the research. The researcher acknowledges that there has been a lot of training of prosecutors by both the prosecution college and the central training team subsequent to the conclusion of this research. The researcher also recognises that the department is in the process of actively recruiting more prosecutors.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Law and criminal justice
Depositing User: Jisc Router
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2020 17:56
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2020 17:56
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/7009

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