Northern Ireland can take a giant step forward if new legislation is agreed against the insidious crime of stalking, which is suffered and endured by many victims each and every day.
That was the message today from Justice Minister, Naomi Long as she moved Consideration Stage of the Protection from Stalking Bill in the NI Assembly.
Naomi Long said “Since becoming Justice Minister, I have made bringing forward stalking legislation a key priority. The moving of this Bill to Consideration Stage today marks another significant milestone in its progression.
I have met many victims of this horrendous crime and listened to the torture, fear and distress they have had to deal with on a daily basis. Women and girls are unfortunately, in the majority of those affected by stalking.”
I fully appreciate the devastating effect that stalking can have on its victims, and how manipulative and persistent a stalker can be. This new law, when agreed will ensure that victims have the protection that they need and deserve to feel safe”
The Bill, if passed, will create a specific offence of stalking and will be better focused on recognising stalking behaviour that can be fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated.
It will also include the offence of threatening or abusive behaviour which can be trigged by a single incident and provides that all victims of stalking will have automatic eligibility for special measures assistance, such as the use of live links or screens at court, when giving evidence in proceedings.
It will have greater and more appropriate penalties and protections than are available under current harassment legislation.
The Bill will also introduce Stalking Protection Orders. These orders will be a key tool for police, which will enable them to intervene early, prior to any conviction. This allows police to disrupt stalking behaviours before they become entrenched or escalate in severity; and through them, protect victims when there is an immediate risk of harm. Importantly, the onus is taken away from the victim to apply for these orders as the police will apply directly to the courts.
The Minister concluded: “This is a significant piece of legislation which I am confident will soon become law. It will help protect many people across Northern Ireland from living in the fear that this kind of crime creates.”
Notes to editors:
- The Protection from Stalking Bill was introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly in January 2021 by Justice Minister, Naomi Long MLA.
- The Bill has 2 parts and contains 20 clauses.
- Part one gives effect to the intention to improve the operation of the justice system, by creating a specific offence of stalking that recognizes the experiences of victims and the behaviours associated with stalking.
- The Bill also includes the offence of threatening and abusive behaviour that can be made out after a single incident. It also provides that all victims of stalking will have automatic eligibility for assistance with giving evidence in proceedings (special measures such as the use of live links or screens at court).
- Part two deals with the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders to provide protection to a person at risk of stalking. They will enable early intervention pre-conviction, to address stalking behaviours.
- The police will be able to apply to the court for a Stalking Protection Order if it appears that a person has carried out acts associated with stalking or poses a risk associated with stalking to another person and there is reasonable cause to believe the Stalking Protection Order is necessary to protect another person from such risk.
- Copies of the Bill and Explanatory and Financial Memorandum can be accessed at the NI Assembly website www.niassembly.gov.uk
- Media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via email at: email@example.com
- The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.
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