Crime Government Stormont

New Stalking legislation Welcomed

The Protection from Stalking Bill passed its Final Stage in Northern Ireland Assembly.

Welcoming its passing, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “The delivery of this new legislation offers greater protection in our communities and its passing will be of great significance to anyone affected by stalking.

“I want to pay tribute to victims of this horrendous crime who have shared their personal experiences with me and been the driving force behind this Bill.” 

The legislation creates a new specific offence of stalking for Northern Ireland, capturing conduct and acts associated with stalking behaviour. It will be better focused on recognising the fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated nature of stalking behaviours and the particular risks associated with stalking. 

It will apply to two or more occasions that cause a person to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress. A new offence of threatening or abusive behaviour is also created which can be triggered by a single incident.

Importantly 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.This also applies in family proceedings, where special measures can be considered by the court on a case by case basis.

The Bill provides for greater and more appropriate penalties and protections than are available under current harassment legislation, with the stalking offence carrying a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of 10 years imprisonment or a fine, or both.

The introduction of Stalking Protection Orders provides a key tool for police that will enable them to intervene prior to any conviction.

Naomi Long concluded: “I am grateful to our justice partners, who are playing their part in examining how they can ensure this Bill delivers meaningful change for victims and providing training for their organisations.

“I hope we can secure Royal Assent by May, and, along with our criminal justice partners, bring the stalking offence into operation by the end of this summer, and Stalking Protection Orders towards the end of this year.

“This new legislation will play a crucial part in generating confidence in victims to come forward and report to the police in the knowledge that they will receive the support and protections they need and deserve to feel safe.” 

Watch: Minister Long explains how this Bill, which will create a new specific offence, will better protect victims of stalking


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