New Police Powers to Apply for Stalking Protection Orders

New Police Powers to Apply for Stalking Protection Orders
Legally reviewed by: Kevin Waddingham Updated: In: Criminal Defence

The government has recently announced new measures, making it easier for the police to apply for stalking protection orders, to improve access to protection for victims of stalking. 

As part of National Stalking Awareness Week, Laura Farris, Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, issued updated statutory guidance:

“… they will no longer need to meet the high criminal standard of proof threshold in order toapply for a stalking protection order. Instead, evidence which meets the lower civil standard will likely be accepted by courts to apply a stalking protection order.”

What are Stalking Protection Orders?

Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) were introduced in January 2020, to protect victims by addressing the perpetrator’s behaviour before it becomes entrenched or more severe. 

Under the Stalking Protection Order, perpetrators can face restrictions such as having to notify the police of their whereabouts or travel. If the perpetrators breach these restrictions, they may face prison time of up to 5 years.

Police Receive More Power to Apply for Stalking Protection Orders

Under updated statutory guidance, police officers are instructed that they will no longer need to meet the high criminal standard of proof threshold in order to apply for a stalking protection order. Instead, evidence which meets the lower civil standard will likely be accepted by courts to apply a stalking protection order. Furthermore, the maximum sentence had doubled and a new civil order to protect victims has been introduced.

Previously, the police needed a high standard of proof to apply for an SPO. This means the police can apply for an SPO based on a belief that the victim is at risk, even if there hasn’t been a conviction or formal charges laid.

When Might the Police Apply for a Stalking Protection Order?

Examples of when the police might now apply for an SPO include:

  • A victim reports stalking behaviour.
  • The police become aware of stalking behaviour during another investigation.
  • Someone reports stalking behaviour on behalf of the victim (e.g., through a support agency).
  • There’s a concern about stalking behaviour at any point during an investigation, evenbefore charges are filed.

Public Sexual Harassment Now a Criminal Offence

Furthermore, the government has introduced a new law specifically targeting public sexual harassment. The Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public Act 2023 creates a new criminal offence for stalking behaviour. This comes into effect on October 1st, 2024.

Previously, public sexual harassment might have been prosecuted under existing public order offences, but the new Act clarifies the law and potentially increases the penalties. The maximum sentence for those convicted under the Act is two years’ imprisonment.

If you are facing allegations of public sexual harassment, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately. An experienced solicitor can help you understand the specifics of your case and explore potential defences.

What to Do if You Receive a Stalking Prevention Order?

At Cartwright King, our criminal defence solicitors can act on behalf of the defendant to contest the SPO.

Our criminal defence team have experience in liaising with the police force legal department regarding the progress of their SPO application. With the assistance of our solicitors, you can request to see the draft application and supporting documents that are to be submitted by the police.

From there, our solicitors can lease with the police to come to an agreement regarding the appropriate conditions to be attached to the SPO. However, an agreement cannot be reached, a hearing at the Magistrates Court will follow. During this time the defendant may have to give evidence.

Our team of expert solicitors can attend the hearing, advocating for the defendant. During the hearing our solicitors can advocate why the order should not be granted or why certain conditions or prohibitions should not be imposed in the order. 

If you have been served with an SPO, it is important to seek legal advice immediately. Our solicitors can advise you on your options and help you defend your rights. Give us a call on 03458 941 622, or request a call back here. For out of hours emergency calls, please call our free emergency legal advice helpline. 

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.