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PSNI gets new anti-stalking powers

Northern Ireland’s officers are getting stronger powers to deal with stalking cases.

Northern Ireland is getting tough new laws to prevent stalking, bring it in line with England and Wales.

Confirmation came after the Protection from Stalking Bill passed its final stage in Northern Ireland Assembly.

The legislation creates a new specific offence of stalking for Northern Ireland, capturing conduct and acts associated with stalking behaviour.

And the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) will be able to seek protection orders from the courts.

The Ministry of Justice said the laws 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.

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.

For offenders there is a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of 10 years imprisonment or a fine, or both.

The legislation follows powers that were introduced in England and Wales in 2020.

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 plan is for the new offence to be in use by the end of this summer, and Stalking Protection Orders towards the end of this year.

The minister said: “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.” 

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