There can be few experiences as horrendous as being stalked. Being the subject of obsessive pestering behaviour can leave victims both too scared to walk down a street and too terrified to stay in their own homes. The stalker can be known to their victim or can be a complete stranger. Anyone can be a target – singer Lily Allen has spoken out about her seven-year stalking ordeal which ended up with a man breaking into her bedroom as she slept, who told police he intended to stick a knife in her face. The horrific case of Alice Ruggles, who had her throat slashed by an obsessive ex-boyfriend, shows it can all to often end in tragedy.

It is welcome that Scotland has been at the forefront of tackling the issue and led the way in the UK by making it a specific criminal offence in 2010. The number of successful prosecutions has soared in the seven years since legislation was introduced and work is continuing to try to assist victims with initiatives such as the development of a new mobile app to help gather evidence.

However the experience of Lucy, revealed in the Sunday Herald today, raises some worrying questions about how the justice system is protecting victims who do come forward. It seems incredible that someone who has been harassed by an ex-partner then has to face being grilled about their past relationships and sexual history in court. This has worrying echoes of concerns which have long been raised about how victims of sexual crimes are questioned in court, attempting to undermine their credibility by presenting claims that brand them promiscuous or deceptive.

Existing legislation means lawyers in Scotland have to apply to the court to request permission to use sexual or character history in sexual offence cases and prove it is relevant and not prejudicial. Some but not all stalking crimes fall into this category, as the nature of the behaviour can vary widely – from silent phones and waiting outside the victim’s home to physical intimidation and touching and grabbing.

Lucy says she feels like not just a victim of stalking, but also of the court process. It can only be hoped that her experience of the judicial system is a rare one, but action must be taken to ensure no other victim should have to go through that kind of ordeal.