New legislation comes into force today (Monday, January 20) which will enable police to further protect victims of stalking and harassment.
The Stalking Protection Order (SPO) is a new civil order under the Stalking Protection Act 2019, which can be applied for to help police deal with an alleged suspect, and has been developed to enable the faster tackling of stranger stalking.
As this order is something the police apply for, this can save the victim stress and worry at an already traumatic time.
The new order will carry a criminal penalty if conditions are broken, and can apply to any case of stalking, regardless of whether the suspect has a prior conviction for stalking.
It also bans suspects from contacting alleged victims while a police investigation is being carried out and breaching the order could result in up to five years in jail.
It will also force the perpetrator to seek help, often in the form of a mental health assessment. By addressing the perpetrator’s issues, the orders could help reduce re-offending.
Detective Inspector Katherine Rivers, the Bedfordshire Police lead on stalking and harassment, said: “Stalking can be linked to some of the most serious crimes we investigate, including sexual offences, domestic abuse and even murder.
“Behaviour that can at first appear trivial or well-meaning can escalate, and we welcome the new powers to help us protect victims and prevent further offending.
“I would urge anyone with concerns to contact the police, even if you’re unsure that a crime has been committed.”
The order can be applied for when a suspect has demonstrated behaviour associated with stalking, namely Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted, Repeated, known as the FOUR behaviours, or where there is reasonable cause to believe the order could protect a victim from risk.
The orders will usually be in place for a minimum of two years.
To report stalking, call police on 101, in an emergency, always dial 999. You can also call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or speak with Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy on 0203 866 4107.