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Stalking Protection Act 2019 receives Royal Assent

The Stalking Protection Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 15 March 2019. Section 15 - which deals with the territorial extent, name and commencement of the Act - came into force upon Royal Assent. The substantive parts of the Act come into force at a later point.

The Act makes provision for protecting persons from risks associated with stalking.

In the second reading debate, Dr Sarah Wollaston, who sponsored the Bill, acknowledged the effect of the two new stalking offences introduced in 2012, under which 959 prosecutions were commenced in 2016-17. She noted too that the maximum sentence for stalking had been increased to ten years in the Policing and Crime Act 2017. However, she added:

"There remains in the law ... a serious gap when it comes to victims of what is known as stranger stalking, by which I mean those who are stalked by someone who is not a former or current intimate partner. Those victims of stalking do not have recourse to the protections available under the existing protection order regime. That is well recognised, which is why I think there is widespread support for the Bill. If we can step in at an earlier stage, perhaps we will have a better opportunity to prevent stalking before the behaviour can become so deeply engrained."

The Act achieves this by creating a new civil Stalking Protection Order (SPO) which — on application by the police to a magistrates' court — would impose prohibitions and requirements on the perpetrator.  Any breach of the terms of the SPO would result in a criminal offence. The SPO has been designed to apply in situations where existing interventions are not always applicable, such as when: the stalking occurs outside of a domestic abuse context, or where the perpetrator is not a current or former intimate partner of the victim (so called 'stranger stalking'); or the criminal threshold has not, or has not yet, been met (such as while a criminal case is being built), or the victim does not support a prosecution.

For the Act, click here. For the Hansard record of the parliamentary debates relating to the Bill, click here.

21/3/19

Updated on 17/4/19:
The earlier version of this news item implied that the Act had fully come into force, rather than just Section 15.