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Government Announces New Measures Against Stalkers: Civil Stalking Protection Orders

Government Announces New Measures Against Stalkers: Civil Stalking Protection Orders

civil stalking protection orders. Photo credit Flicker:Patrik Nygren

Home secretary Amber Rudd has announced new protection orders are to be introduced to better protect victims of stalkers at the earliest possible stage.

The new civil stalking protection orders in England and Wales will help those who are targeted by strangers and give them similar protection to victims of domestic abuse.

A breach of the conditions of an order will be a criminal offence and could lead to a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Police will be able to apply to the courts for an order, which will be available whether or not there are ongoing criminal proceedings. If a prosecution is ongoing, the order can protect victims while evidence is being collected.

The Home Secretary said: “Stalking can have devastating consequences and I am determined that we do all we can to protect victims from these prolonged and terrifying campaigns of abuse that can last years, leaving many people too afraid to leave their homes and unable to get on with their lives.”

Police want to ‘stop stalkers in their tracks’

Ministers say that as many as 1.5m women and 830,000 men are victims of stalkers every year; however, the police recorded only 4,168 stalking offences in the year to June. Even fewer – 1,102 cases – were prosecuted in the courts in 2015-16.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council‘s lead for stalking and harassment, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, said: “We want to stop stalkers in their tracks . . . The launch of stalking protection orders will help us intervene earlier and place controls on perpetrators to prevent their behaviour escalating while the crime is investigated.”

Although the requirements of an order will vary according to the nature of the case, it will mean the suspect typically being banned from going near the victim and contacting them online. The introduction of the orders will also enable the courts to demand that stalkers attend a rehabilitation programme or else seek treatment for mental health issues.

The new orders will offer protection for any individual who has not been in an intimate relationship with his or her stalker, and help those targeted by strangers, acquaintances or colleagues, as well as professionals such as doctors who may be targeted by patients. Cases involving ex-partners are already covered by domestic violence protection orders.

Critics question enforceability of new orders

However, critics have voiced concerns that the orders will be used as a substitute for pursuing criminal prosecutions by poorly trained police and prosecutors unable to gather evidence. They have also said that breaches would not be rigorously enforced.

Harry Fletcher, director of advocacy group Voice4Victims, claimed the new orders were only a stop-gap measure to tide victims over while the police decided whether to pursue a prosecution. “The real issue is why there are so few prosecutions so far under [existing] stalking laws and why it takes so long for the police to secure evidence to prosecute,” he said.

New measures to prevent violence against women and girls

The Home Secretary’s announcement is part of a set of measures to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The announcement comes as new statistics released by the Femicide Census reveal that 936 women were killed by a male in their own home between 2009 and 2015: 64% of the deaths (598 women) were carried out by a current or former partner, with 8% having been killed by their sons.

The new VAWG Service Transformation Fund, running over three years, will boost local provision of VAWG services to promote and embed the best local practice. It will be available to Police and Crime Commissioners, local authorities and health commissioners to support community-based services and promote best practice.

They will be encouraged to make joint bids for funding with women’s charities and VAWG service providers to encourage a joined-up approach, with a focus on early intervention as well as crisis response.

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