Stalkers risk five-year jail terms for breaching new court orders introduced by the government in England and Wales.
Ministers have signed-off on new Stalking Protection Orders which offer added safeguards for victims by making breaching an order a criminal offence.
Figures show that one in five women and one in ten men are victims of stalking over the course of their lives.
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, pictured, said the introduction of new anti-stalking powers tomorrow will provide added protection for victims
Under the new rules, police in England and Wales will be able to seek Stalking Protection Orders from the courts to prevent suspects from contacting their victims. Breaching the orders will be a criminal offence with offenders facing a maximum of five years in prison
The new legislation has been praised by charities supporting the victims of stalking.
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability said: ‘Stalking can shatter lives and – in the most extreme cases – end them.’
Ahead of tomorrow’s launch, Ms Atkins said: ‘I am personally determined to give power back to those victims and restore their confidence in our criminal justice system.
‘The orders, which are part of the Stalking Protection Act (2019), will enable police officers to intervene earlier to protect victims.’
She added: ‘Stalking subjects victims to a terrifying campaign of fear – shattering confidence and, in some cases, leaving people too afraid to even step out of their front door.
‘This absolutely must end. Stalking Protection Orders will be a valuable tool in dragging stalkers out of the shadows in which they operate – giving power back to victims and restoring their confidence in our criminal justice system.’
The new rules were praised by the Suzy Lumplugh Trust, named after the 25-year-old estate agent who vanished after meeting a client known as ‘Mr Kipper’ in Fulham, south west London in July 1986
The new orders will ban suspects from approaching or contacting their victims. In some cases, the perpetrators will be mandated to seek professional help.
According to the new legislation, which becomes operational in the morning, the Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) will last a minimum of two years. Breaching the order risks a five-year jail term.
The new SPOs have been praised by charities working with the victims of stalking.
Suky Bhaker Acting Chief Executive of The Suzy Lamplugh Trust said: ‘Today is an important step forward in the way stalking is handled in England and Wales and an acknowledgement of the suffering victims of stalking can face.
‘We welcome the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders and hope to see the new order complement the existing legislation to ensure that victims receive a proactive response when they come forward and report stalking.’
Katy Bourne, head of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said: ‘Stalking is an insidious crime that takes over and destroys lives. It is vital that those affected can feel confident in reporting, knowing that early action will be taken and that the law is on their side.
‘These Stalking Protection Orders will allow police to apply for restrictions on the behaviour of perpetrators, excluding them from entering a particular area or from making contact with their victim in any way.
‘It will be a criminal offence to break the terms of an order which, I hope, will become a substantial deterrent and a way to enforce the law without adding unnecessary strain upon the victim.’
We will drag stalkers out of the shadows and restore victims’ confidence in our criminal justice system, writes Home Office Minister VICTORIA ATKINS
Stalking can shatter lives and – in the most extreme cases – end them. But stalking is still a somewhat misunderstood crime. Many people associate it with celebrities being pursued by their unwanted admirers. And while these high-profile cases are truly horrific, we know that stalking can affect anyone from any walk of life.
According to the last crime survey, one in five women and one in ten men in England and Wales have experienced some form of stalking. A victim I met this week described how the stalker met her through her work and then proceeded to infiltrate every aspect of her life, stalking her and her family, and even trying to get her business closed down.
I am personally determined to give power back to those victims and restore their confidence in our criminal justice system. So, as of tomorrow, Stalking Protection Orders will be available to police forces across England and Wales. The orders, which are part of the Stalking Protection Act (2019), will enable police officers to intervene earlier to protect victims. Currently, there is too much onus on the victims to seek protection through the courts. These new orders will be restrictive, preventing stalkers from contacting victims and banning them from going to their home or where they work. By placing conditions on suspects, they will keep victims safe and ensure that stalkers’ dangerous and predatory behaviour is dealt with.
Speaking today Ms Atkins said the rules will be particularly effective in dealing with ‘stranger stalking’. She said the SPOs were designed to offer an early intervention to stop the offender’s obsessive and dangerous behaviour
These orders will be particularly effective in dealing with cases of ‘stranger stalking’, when victims (in the majority of cases, women) are stalked by someone who is not a former intimate partner. It could be a former colleague or a casual acquaintance. And, with the rise of digital communications, such incidents are sadly increasing.
I had the privilege of meeting the father of Hollie Gazzard, a vivacious young woman whose life was cruelly cut short by her ex-boyfriend who stalked her for years before brutally stabbing her 14 times in broad daylight. There were plenty of warning signs leading up to her death, his escalating jealousy, bombarding her with calls and texts and showing up at her home. Her father Nick is now honouring her legacy through his charity the Hollie Gazzard Trust, which seeks to support vulnerable women from domestic abuse and stalking. Stalking Protections Orders will help police act before stalking escalates, and hopefully avoid women suffering the same tragic fate as Hollie.
All too often, perpetrators’ behaviour is influenced by mental illness. These orders could also force offenders to seek support to address the reasons behind their obsessive and dangerous behaviour. Failing to comply with the orders could land stalkers with a five-year prison sentence.
I am determined to make these orders as effective as possible. The Government will continue to work with police and others working in our criminal justice system to raise awareness of stalking and ensure frontline professionals have the knowledge and tools to deal with this harrowing crime.
Stalking subjects victims to a terrifying campaign of fear – shattering confidence and, in some cases, leaving people too afraid to even step out of their front door.
This absolutely must end. Stalking Protection Orders will be a valuable tool in dragging stalkers out of the shadows in which they operate – giving power back to victims and restoring their confidence in our criminal justice system.
Victoria Atkins is the Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability