Stalking ban to stop offenders contacting or approaching victims

Offenders risk being jailed for five years if they breach new rules

Kate Ng
Sunday 19 January 2020 15:39 GMT
More support is needed for victims of stalking
More support is needed for victims of stalking (Tom Pilston/Rex)

Police will be given powers to stop stalkers from contacting or approaching their victims during investigations from Monday.

The Stalking Protection Order will come into force in England and Wales and are designed to allow police to act at “the earliest opportunity” to protect victims and take tougher steps on stalkers.

The civil order would stay in place for a minimum of two years and those who breach it risk being jailed for five years.

Courts can also use the new ruling to force alleged stalkers to seek professional help and urgent cases could be fast-tracked with an interim order imposed.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, nearly one in five women and one in 10 men over 16 years old have experienced being stalked.

The news was welcomed by campaigners and victims, but only if it is “used correctly” and police move quickly to stop stalkers in their tracks.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous for her safety, told the The The Independent she plans to ask police to enforce the new court order against a man who she says has turned up at her home address and workplace.

Despite blocking him on all social media platforms and eventually deleting her accounts, he continued finding ways to contact her and “wouldn’t take no for an answer”.

“In the end I told him I would go to the police,” she said. “The thing is, you have to prove the stalking before anything is done and even though I told the police I was frightened, I had to keep ringing them every time he turned up outside my house.

“I think the police spoke to him because he was very angry that I called them. They told me to keep a diary of everything as well as all the messages as evidence.

“I felt like I had to prove it before anything would be done and meanwhile I was scared to walk to work.”

She told The Independent the last time he contacted her was on New Year’s Eve to tell her “he was watching me”, after four months of silence.

“It’s like he’s become obsessed and thinks he has some right to see me,” she added. “I think he needs help because if he’s not doing it to me I expect he will do it to another woman.”

Clive Ruggles, of the Alice Ruggles Trust, said the orders were a “powerful new tool” but emphasised that it is “critical” there was no delay in arresting those who breach them.

“Any other response may well escalate the risk to the victim,” he said.

Mr Ruggles’ daughter Alice was murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend who stalked her for weeks.

At the time, she contacted Northumbria Police about his threatening behaviour but opted not to have him arrested. A domestic homicide review into the incident found the police should have made that decision and it should not have been left to the victim.

Mr Ruggles said the existence of SPOs could have made a “critical difference” in Alice’s case.

Professor Jane Monckton-Smith, a specialist researcher in homicide stalking and coercive control at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “I think the orders could be really useful if they are used correctly.”

But she added breaches could put victims in serious danger and must be taken seriously by the courts.

“Stalkers by their nature are obsessive and will keep going and going until they are stopped,” she said.

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.”

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