What are they and what do they do?
Stalking can affect people of all ages and from any background and although there is no legal definition, the police have adopted the following description: ‘a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive. It can include harassment that amounts to stalking or stalking that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the victim’.
The Stalking Protection Act 2019 came into force in England and Wales ‘to protect persons from risks associated with stalking’ and as of January 2020, the police can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a Stalking Protection Order (SPO).
What is a Stalking Protection Order?
An SPO is an order sought by the police who can apply to the court if the defendant poses a ‘risk associated with stalking’ and there is reasonable cause to believe that the order is necessary to protect another person from such a risk.
The order will contain both prohibitions or requirements which apply to the subject of the order (defendant). It will prohibit the defendant from carrying out acts associated with stalking and prohibit them from doing anything else described in the order or it may require the defendant to positively do something such as attending an assessment or surrendering devices. All prohibitions and requirements will be specified in the order.
What does the court need to be satisfied before making the order?
Before making the order, the court must establish:
- Whether the defendant has carried out acts associated with stalking; and
- Whether the defendant poses a risk associated with stalking to another person.
How long does the order last for?
An SPO can last for a minimum of 2 years up to an indefinite period (until a further order is made).
Can a defendant appeal against an SPO?
Yes. The defendant may appeal to the Crown Court against the making of the order (including the making of an interim SPO).
Breaching the SPO
A person who, without reasonable excuse, breaches the SPO or an interim SPO is committing an offence and the maximum penalty on indictment is for a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
A person who is subject to an SPO must notify the police of their name and home address within 3 days from the date of service of the order. Failure to comply with this requirement is a criminal offence and carries a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment.
There are no time limits within which the police have to make a complaint to the court.
Legal aid may be available for the making, varying, discharging, renewing and appealing of an SPO. It may also be available in relation to proceedings for breach of an SPO or failure to comply with notification requirements.
The application process for legal aid will be subject to a means and merits test application.
How can we help
If you are to appear in court for an SPO application or breach or would like to speak to one our team in relation to the above then please contact me by email on [email protected] or contact our Crime Team on 01733 882800.
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