Can New Powers Make A “Critical Difference” To Victims Of Stalking

A father of a woman who was killed by her ex-boyfriend, has said that new powers that came into force on Monday 20th January 2020, could have made a “critical difference” in the case of his daughter.

The new orders will allow police to apply to magistrates for a Stalking Protection Order (SPO) that can be left in place for two years. Any person that breaches the order could be sentenced with up to five years in prison.

The courts will also have the power to issue interim SPOs, enabling immediate protection for victims whilst a decision is made.

Clive Ruggles, who’s daughter Alice was murdering by her ex-boyfriend in 2016, when interviewed about the new orders, said:

“Stalking protection orders represent a powerful new tool to help the police respond in the right way when they do…

“It is critical, though, that there is no delay in arresting perpetrators who breach them: any other response may well escalate the risk to the victim.”

The chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Katy Bourne, in her personal life had also been a victim of stalking and had to obtain a civil injunction with no support in her own case. Bourne said that if SPOs had been available during her ordeal, it would have given her ‘peace of mind’ and ‘helped her sleep at night’.

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.”

The Stalking Protection Bill, which has introduced the new SPOs, enable police the option of a civil order to help tackle so called ‘stranger stalking’ sooner and more effectively.

It is estimated that more than one in five women and nearly one in ten men, between the ages of 16 and 69, have been the victims of stalking.

Between 2017 and 2018 there were 1,616 prosecutions commenced that involved stalking, with almost three quarters being related to domestic abuse.

In the cases of domestic abuse, options available to victims is either a Domestic Abuse Protection Order and Notices, however, these rely upon the victim and perpertrator being in a close relationship. The SPO will now allow victims who do not know their perpetrators some level of protection.

Suky Bhaker, acting CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust said:

“The rapid passage into law of the Stalking Protection Act is welcome. The introduction of Stalking Protection Orders, with criminal sanctions for breaches, will provide a strengthening of the tools to protect all victims of stalking at an early stage.”

The new orders do however have their critics.

Campaigners are warning that could actually put victims at greater risk whilst their perpertrators are under investigation by the police.

Rachel Horman, solicitor and chair of Paladin, the national stalking advocacy service has called the order “a retrograde step” and could in fact “lead to an increase in homicides.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Ms Horman said:

“The only way to keep a stalking victim safe in my view is to ensure that the perpetrator is in custody. Stalking is about obsession and fixation so nothing less than custody will keep victims safe.

“It is vital that stalking protection orders are used in addition to criminal charges. An order does not give the perpetrator a criminal record, which is important in helping to protect victims.”

Do you think the new SPO’s will help increase the protection offered to victims of stalking? Or do you agree with the critics that there is still more to be done and instead the SPO’s have increased the risk of harm?

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