Harassment can be defined as: “the act of systematic and/or continued, unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands”.
There are many types of anti-social behaviour within the category of harassment, with one of them being stalking.
Stalking can be defined as unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group. The Crime Survey for England and Wales reports that 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 10 men aged 16-59 have been victims of stalking since the age of 16.
The Stalking Protection Bill has been developed in 2019 to introduce Stalking Protection Orders, which are civil orders that police can apply to enable them to tackle stranger stalking quicker and more effectively. This bill has been developed by the Government and has been given royal assent, in a bid to tackle violence against women and girls in the United Kingdom.
The new stalking protection orders will allow for both restrictions and requirements for perpetrators and will carry a criminal penalty if these are broken. Importantly, the police apply for the order themselves, saving the victim stress and worry at an already traumatic time. The new orders can apply to any case of stalking but is designed specifically for occasions where stalking occurs outside of a domestic abuse context and will allow the courts to ban perpetrators from entering certain locations and contacting the victims. Furthermore, it will also force the perpetrator to seek help, often in the form of a mental health assessment. By addressing the issues of the perpetrator also, it should help to stop re-offending.
In addition to the Stalking Protection Orders, the Home Office has provided £4.1 million to fund the Multi-Agency Stalking Interventions Programme, which aims to improve responses to stalking within the Criminal Justice System. Furthermore, £50,000 a year will be provided to the National Stalking Helpline, ensuring that victims will continue to have someone to contact if they feel in danger or need advice.
Victoria Atkins (Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerabilities) said that the new Stalking Protection Orders will “provide safety and security for victims earlier than ever before”. Furthermore, Baroness Bertin added that the new orders will ensure victims “do not have to wait for prosecution before protection kicks in”.