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Stalking is often viewed as a precursor to violence, but determining which stalkers might attack is a difficult task. This study overcomes shortfalls in previous investigations by adopting a pseudo-prospective design and examining potential risk factors for different types of stalker.
Demographic, behavioural and diagnostic information was collected from stalkers referred to a community forensic mental health service (n=211). Potential risk factors for stalking violence were identified using odds ratios and χ2 tests, and entered into logistic regression models. Model utility was assessed using receiver operating characteristic curves.
Amongst Rejected ex-intimate stalkers, violence was best predicted by previous violence, making threats and being employed (area under the curve=0.75), while for stalkers with other motives and relationships to the victim, being aged less than 30 years, substance use at the time of stalking and prior violence best predicted stalking violence (area under the curve=0.80).
Stalkers at increased risk of violence can be accurately identified by examining motivational and relationship type in conjunction with specific relevant risk factors. Previous violence is a particularly important risk factor, as are threats amongst ex-intimate stalkers. Approach behaviours and psychosis were shown to be less useful in predicting violence.
Mental health clinicians are frequently asked to assess the risks presented by patients making threats to kill, but there are almost no data to guide such an evaluation.
This data linkage study examined serious violence following making threats to kill and the potential role of mental disorder. A total of 613 individuals convicted of threats to kill had their prior contact with public mental health services established at the time of the index offence. The group's subsequent criminal convictions were established 10 years later using the police database. Death from suicidal or homicidal violence was also established.
Within 10 years, 44% of threateners were convicted of further violent offending, including 19 (3%) homicides. Those with histories of psychiatric contact (40%) had a higher rate (58%) of subsequent violence. The highest risks were in substance misusers, mentally disordered, young, and those without prior criminal convictions. Homicidal violence was most frequent among threateners with a schizophrenic illness. Sixteen threateners (2.6%) killed themselves, and three were murdered.
In contrast to the claims in the literature that threats are not predictive of subsequent violence, this study revealed high rates of assault and even homicide following threats to kill. The mentally disordered were over-represented among threat offenders and among those at high risk of subsequent violence. The mentally disordered threateners at highest risk of violence were young, substance abusing, but not necessarily with prior convictions. Those who threaten others were also found to be at greater risk of killing themselves or being killed.
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