Stalking is a serious accusation that can really damage the public perception of a person. Being labeled a stalker carries a certain stigma with it. If you’re being accused of stalking someone you should seek legal aid immediately to help you organise your defence and provide you with legal support during a difficult time.
In this article explain what a stalking protection order is, what it does and the legal definition of stalking.
What is a Stalking Protection Order?
A Stalking Protection Orders is an order made by a Magistrates Court which imposes restrictions or requirements on the person to whom the order is made. For example, it may require them to stay away from a particular individual or location.
Alternatively, it may require the individual to attend a drugs or alcohol programme or receive a mental health assessment. An order can only be made where the court is satisfied that the individual has carried out acts associated with stalking, their stalking poses a risk to themselves or that the order is necessary to protect another person from being the stalker.
An order is not a conviction and you don’t need to be found guilty of an offence to receive an order. But breaching the conditions of the order could result in you being found guilty of a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is not actually defined in law but the Police & Crown Prosecution Service describe it as;
‘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’.
Other examples of conduct which might be construed as stalking are given below.
How is a Stalking Protection Order made?
The procedure is similar to the now extinct Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO’s). The Chief Constable makes the application to a Magistrates Court. The civil rules of evidence apply, meaning that witness statements can be read to the court and hearsay is allowed.
If a witness is to be called to give evidence, then special measures can be allowed such as the witness giving evidence over a video link or from behind a screen. Applications can also be made against children and young people in the Youth Court.
When will a court make an order?
Before making a full order, the Court must be satisfied of three criteria:
- The respondent has carried out acts associated with stalking. These could include using a tracking app on a person’s phone to monitor their movements, posting on the person’s social media pages or turning up at places where they know the person is going to be such as a school or place of work. Even the sending of flowers or unwanted gifts which are known, or ought reasonably to be known, as being unwelcome to the other party can amount to stalking.
- The Court must be satisfied that the respondent poses a risk associated with stalking to another person and this may be in respect of physical or psychological harm or of causing physical damage to property.
- The third criteria for the making of the full order is that the Court must find that it is necessary to make the order to protect another.
If the court makes an order the respondent of the order must notify the police within three days of their home address and comply with all of the prohibitions or requirements. Any change of address must also be notified.
How long does a Stalking Protection Order last?
The order will be made either for a fixed period of 2 years, longer or “until further order”. This means that the restrictions will remain in place indefinitely or until it is discharged or varied by a court.
What is an Interim Stalking Protection Order?
An interim order is a quicker process that is usually either made pending the hearing of the full application to the Court or where there is an immediate risk of harm. The Court has only to consider if it is “appropriate” to make an order when asked to consider an interim order whereas the Court must be satisfied that it is “necessary” to make the full order.
Does a Stalking Protection Order mean a Criminal Record?
Being made the subject of an order does not mean that you have a criminal record as it is not a conviction. The police will hold details of the order and conditions on the Police National Computer. The order will also be seen if you are the subject of an enhanced DBS check.
Can a Stalking Protection Order be terminated or changed?
Yes, a Court can vary the conditions of an order at any time on application by the Chief Constable or the person subject to the order. A court cannot discharge an order within 2 years of it being made without the consent of the police.
Can I be represented in Court if someone is applying for an order against me?
In short, yes. If you have received a summons or notice to appear at court, you should seek legal advice from a solicitor with experience in dealing with these types of applications as soon as possible.
A solicitor can oppose the application on your behalf which might mean that an order is not made or that the conditions are far less restrictive than those sought by the police.
Is funding available or will I have to pay for representation?
Legal aid is available for representation at a court hearing and is subject to a means and interest of justice test. Alternative funding may also be available, for example many insurance policies provide legal protection cover. Your solicitor will be able to discuss all funding options with you.
Need more help?
If you have received a summons in relation to an application or would like further information or assistance then please contact us and one of the team will be happy to assist.