What are Stalking Protection Orders?
Stalkers could face up to five years in prison for breaching new court orders which not only ban them from contacting alleged victims but also impose new obligations. Earlier this month, the Stalking Protection Act 2019 came into force, and with it came the introduction of “Stalking Protection Orders”(SPO). Within 11 hours of these orders being available to the courts, the first had been handed down. Here is an overview of what they are, what you can do about them, and how proceedings in relation to them can be funded.
What is a Stalking Protection Order?
Before the new law, victims of stalking could either apply to the court themselves for a Non-Molestation Order or report an offence to the police who would then decide whether to charge a person with stalking. Now, the police have the power to seek a far-reaching court order without a criminal conviction.
The Chief Officer of Police can apply to the Magistrates Court for an SPO against a person (D) if they believe that:
- D carried out acts associated with stalking;
- D poses a risk associated with stalking another person; AND
- There is reasonable cause to believe the proposed order is necessary to protect another person from such a risk (whether or not the other person was the victim of the acts associated with stalking as above)
The SPO can impose various restrictions on the person against whom they are made. These can include (but are not limited to):
- entering certain locations where the victim lives or frequently visits;
- contacting the victim by any means, either directly or through third parties, including in person or via telephone, post, email, SMS text message or social media;
- making reference to the victim on social media either directly or indirectly;
- recording images of the victim;
- using any device capable of accessing the internet unless it has the capacity to retain and display the history of internet use;
The SPO could also require the person against whom the order is made to:
- attend an appropriate perpetrator intervention programme, or a drugs and alcohol programme;
- attend a mental health assessment;
- surrender their devices to the police along with any relevant passwords;
- sign on at a police station.
Notification requirement – a person subject to a SPO must notify the police within three days of any other names they use and any change of address.
Duration – a SPO can be for a fixed period of at least two years, or until a further order is made, meaning that it is indefinite. An interim order can be made if there is going to be some time before the application for the substantive order can be determined.
How can they be challenged?
The court will make a substantive order after a fact-finding hearing. For a full order, they must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the person against whom the allegations are made carried out the acts associated with stalking and that they continue to pose a risk associated with stalking. When making an interim order, the magistrates will use their judgement and do not have to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once an order is made by the Magistrates Court, the person against whom the order is made can appeal to the Crown Court. They can appeal against the making of an order; the variation, renewal or discharge of an order of an order; or the refusal to vary an order if the variation was requested by themselves.
You can be represented at these hearings and you should make an enquiry with David Gray solicitors about this.
How will representation be funded?
Legal Aid is available for these hearings, subject to a financial eligibility test, and an interest of justice element.
If you have any questions about how your case will be funded, you should let us know and we will talk you through your options.
Breach of a Stalking Protection Order
Breach of an SPO is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment. If you face breach proceeding, you can be arrested and interviewed by the police. FREE legal advice is available for police interviews regardless of your income. If you are accused of breach then ask for David Gray solicitors to be contacted.