ONE of Scotland’s leading lawyers has warned parents to cover up laptop cameras with plasters to stop paedophiles snooping on their children.

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini also suggested parents vet their children’s Facebook friends amid fears about stalking and grooming.

Dame Elish was speaking at a conference led by the charity Action Against Stalking, and said her own ordeal meant she had not hesitated to join it as patron.

In 2014, a man was jailed for harassing the former Lord Advocate after breaking a series of court orders.

He was one of two cyber-stalkers who made her life miserable for three years.

Speaking to The Herald, Dame Elish said: “It means I have an understanding of just how persistent stalkers can be. It is not uncommon for this to happen to people in public office, but you don’t need to be in the public eye. You can be a shop assistant and someone takes a ‘fancy’ to you.”

She said the conference aimed to raise awareness among agencies such as the police, victim support and housing providers about the wide range of crimes encompassing stalking, rather than the stereotype of the aggrieved ex-romantic partner.

“They can include so-called revenge porn, cyber-stalking, paedophile grooming and it can be part of domestic abuse,” she added.

Extreme obsession is not a new problem, she said, and was not borne with the dawn of the internet but has been fuelled by the rise of digital technology.

Dame Elish said a child with 2,000 Facebook friends was akin to inviting 2,000 strangers into their home and potentially allowing them access to information about that child and their family.

“We want those working with victims to be more aware, but parents also need to be aware of what their children may be getting sucked into,” she said. “There are some very sinister individuals out there.

“Covering a webcam with a plaster is a good idea because there are people who know how to switch them on remotely.

“These days there are tracking devices, listening devices can be bought from online shops and using social media a stalker can work out someone’s shopping habits or hobbies.”

While some stalkers will try to ruin a victim’s life, through sharing intimate images or attempting to destroy their reputation, cases such as the murder of 24-year-old Alice Ruggles, whose killer Lance Corporal Trimaan Dhillon, of 2 Scots, was jailed this week, show cases can escalate into horrific violence, she said.

“Tools for sentencing can be quite crude and prisons are not resourced or able to tackle this behaviour, so it is about being able to identify it and intervene before it escalates.”

Ann Moulds, founder of Action Against Stalking, called for extreme cases of bullying to be treated as a crime.

She said: “You read about someone being ‘bullied to death’.

“No, they have actually been stalked to death, because in its severest form bullying is often stalking too. Why is it not being viewed as criminal?” she said.

“We want to bring stalking into the young person’s lexicon, but how can we protect children if we don’t understand what is happening?”

The conference in Glasgow was aiming to share best practice, with Scotland seen as taking a leading role in the UK – changing the law earlier than England and making stalking a specific offence.

However Kim Leslie, of solicitors Digby Brown, said barriers still prevented victims seeking legal redress.

“People can be reluctant to open up their private personal details, but may not be aware that an order can be sought to prevent that,” she said.