Coming into effect today, Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) will be available for officers in the Met investigating stalking offences in London.
Detective Inspector Lee Barnard, from the Met’s Stalking Threat Assessment Centre, said: “We are committed to tackling stalking and safeguarding those who find themselves victim of it. It is a crime with a devastating impact on victims’ lives, health and wellbeing that can have a long-term impact on victims, their families and their friends.
“The use of SPOs will help officers who are investigating stalking offences and protect the victims whilst their case is being progressed.”
An SPO is a civil order which will include prohibitions not to do certain things, requirements to do certain things – as well as notification requirements to provide their name and address, and if required, their fingerprints, DNA or photograph within three days of the service of the order.
It is intended to prevent a defendant from carrying out acts associated with stalking, for example: Following, loitering in any place (whether public or private), interfering with any property in the possession of a person and watching or spying on a person.
The order will consist of prohibitions and requirements imposed on the defendant to protect against the risks associated with stalking, which can sometimes include violence (or the threat of).
The application for an SPO is made by an officer of superintendent rank or higher in the Basic Command Unit (BCU) where the suspect is residing, or the officer believes the suspect intends to come to. The grounds for making an application are that it appears to the police that:
A. The defendant has carried out acts associated with stalking;
B. The defendant poses a risk associated with stalking to another person; and,
C. There is reasonable cause to believe the proposed order is necessary to protect another person from such a risk.
These acts may have been carried out anywhere in the world.
Once the application has been made, the courts must then be satisfied with points A and B. They must also be satisfied that the order is necessary to protect another person from that risk.
The minimum duration of a full SPO is two years and they can be indefinite. Breaching one is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
DI Barnard added: “SPOs can be used to protect both the victim, and any other person put at risk by the defendant’s stalking activities. Examples could include the victim’s friends, family, or colleagues, or people targeted due to their shared characteristics e.g. medical staff.
“The benefit of officers being able to apply for SPOs is that we will be able to deal with stalkers robustly to prevent any escalatory behaviours and prevent the threat of violence before it reaches that point.”