Stalking protection orders: Police given ‘powerful new tool’ to protect victims

Written by on 19/01/2020

Stalkers could face up to five years in jail for breaching “powerful” new court orders which ban them from contacting alleged victims.

Police in England and Wales will be able to apply to courts for stalking protection orders (SPOs), which aim to protect victims “at the earliest opportunity”.

They block alleged perpetrators from contacting or approaching their accusers while a police investigation is carried out.

The civil orders – which come into force on Monday – are usually in place for a minimum of two years, and those who breach them face up to five years behind bars.

Clive Ruggles, whose daughter Alice was murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend in 2016 after she was stalked, said the existence of SPOs could have made a “critical difference” in her case.

“Stalking protection orders represent a powerful new tool to help the police respond in the right way when they do,” he said.

“It is critical, though, that there is no delay in arresting perpetrators who breach them: any other response may well escalate the risk to the victim.”

It is estimated one in five women and one in 10 men aged 16 and over in England and Wales have experienced some form of stalking, according to a crime survey carried out on behalf of the Office for National Statistics.

As well as a ban on pursuing victims, courts could use the new ruling to force perpetrators to seek professional help and urgent cases could be fast tracked with an interim order imposed.

Katy Bourne, chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and a victim of stalking, had to face court on her own to get a civil injunction in her case.

She said SPOs were a “breakthrough” and – if they had been in place during her ordeal – would have given her “peace of mind” and helped her “sleep at night”.

But she said they must be “properly enforced”, adding: “Giving the police the power to apply for the order takes the pressure off the victim and means the police are taking it seriously and listening.”

Suky Bhaker, acting chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust – which is named after the 25-year-old estate agent who went missing in 1986 and is presumed murdered – said the move was an “important step forward in the way stalking is handled” and “an acknowledgement of the suffering victims of stalking can face”.

Victoria Atkins, minister for safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “I am determined that we do everything we can to better protect victims and new stalking protection orders will help the police to intervene and take action against perpetrators at the earliest opportunity.”

(c) Sky News 2020: Stalking protection orders: Police given ‘powerful new tool’ to protect victims


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