We welcome the new Stalking Protection Orders, as they will help many people currently going through the divorce or dissolution process.
Stalking by one party of another is a not-infrequent occurrence in the separation process, and early intervention could put a stop to potentially dangerous cases.
Many people mistakenly assume stalking is confined to celebrities being followed and harassed by their more extreme fans. But it happens in the daily life of ordinary people, and as family lawyers, we see it in the breakdown of relationships when people are going through the divorce or dissolution process. A particular worry is when the children of that relationship are brought into the situation, with one parent being followed to school at drop-off and pick-up times, for example. We are also seeing it take place on multiple social media sites as well as other forms of digital communication.
Early intervention, and the threat of criminal action, will be an enormous help to those in this situation.
The orders, which are part of the Stalking Protection Act (2019), will enable police officers to intervene earlier to protect victims. Under the new rules, police in England and Wales will be able to seek Stalking Protection Orders from the courts to prevent suspects from contacting their victims. Breaching the orders will be a criminal offence with offenders facing a maximum of five years in prison.
According to the new legislation, which became operational on January 20, 2020, the Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) will last a minimum of two years. Breaching the order risks a five-year jail term.
Victoria Atkins, Ministers for Safeguarding and Vulnerability, said: "I am determined to make these orders as effective as possible. The Government will continue to work with police and others working in our criminal justice system to raise awareness of stalking and ensure frontline professionals have the knowledge and tools to deal with this harrowing crime."