On Saturday 5 December, I launched a public consultation on introducing a new stalking protection order. Stalking is an insidious crime which traumatises its victims and, at its most extreme, can lead to the loss of innocent lives. We are addressing stalking as part of our wider work to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) and the work we are driving in this area will be captured in our refreshed VAWG strategy to be published in due course.
We introduced new legislation in 2012 to fill a gap in the law to tackle stalking and have driven a programme of training for police and prosecutors to ensure that stalking is recognised and dealt with effectively. Prosecutions are rising which is encouraging. However, I want to be absolutely sure that we are doing all we can to protect victims from this frightening act, which can cause considerable distress and alarm.
The nature of stalking can be delusional and obsessive and while the actions of a stalker can seem innocuous on the surface, there is a risk that the developing fixation may be missed. Early identification of stalking behaviour is crucial and I am determined that this Government will do everything possible to protect victims and deter perpetrators, even before the stage is reached to commence prosecution.
We know that stalking can take place in the context of an ongoing pattern of domestic violence and abuse and we have introduced a range of measures to protect victims in these circumstances, including the domestic violence disclosure scheme, and the domestic violence protection order. Our stalking legislation, along with the new offence of coercive or controlling behaviour, is already helping to protect victims from this abuse.
However, in around half of cases, stalking occurs where only a very casual acquaintanceship exists between the perpetrator and their victim. While existing injunctions or orders may place restrictions on a stalker, this alone will often not deter them from their behaviour. Stalking needs to be recognised for what it is to ensure interventions are effective and meaningful.
A new stalking protection order could ensure that pre-charge options are available to the police to protect these victims of ‘stranger stalking’ to the same level that victims of domestic violence and abuse can be protected. The consultation will explore whether ‘positive requirements’ can be placed on perpetrators at this early stage to help stop their behaviour in its tracks.
I launched the consultation on 5 December during the 16 days of actions following the international day for the elimination of violence against women on 25 November. The consultation can be accessed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/introducing-a-stalking-protection-order.
A copy will also be placed in the House Library.