Police officers could apply for stalking protection orders

Police could be handed the power to apply for a stalking protection order on behalf of victims under proposed new legislation.

A Bill submitted by SNP MSP Rona Mackay would aim to give greater protection to victims by allowing police to make the application directly to court for them.

On Monday, the Stalking Protection (Scotland) Bill was put out for public consultation and will be open for three months.

Officers making the application would be required to show evidence of stalking behaviour and give their assessment that the individual is at risk.

A rise in stalking offences since 2012 has led to calls for greater protection to be given to victims.

A survey by the Scottish Government in 2017-18 found 27% of women aged between 16 and 24 had experienced at least one incident of stalking in the previous year.

Analysis also indicated 11% of adults had experienced at least one type of stalking and harassment over the period.

Under current law, individuals who are being stalked are able to apply to the court to have a non-harassment order (NHO) taken out against a stalker.

It means the victim has to take legal action themselves, which can be costly and stressful, leading to the numbers of victims applying for NHOs being low.

Prosecutors can apply for an NHO once a stalker has been convicted.

However, criminal cases take time to investigate and prosecute, leaving the victim to navigate a civil action at a particularly vulnerable time. In addition, if they do not qualify for legal aid, the cost is prohibitive.

Rona Mackay MSP said: “My proposal aims to give victims greater protection, and access to justice, by allowing the police to apply directly to the court for a Stalking Protection Order (SPO).

“The police will have to show that there is evidence of stalking behaviour and that they believe that there is a risk to the victim.

“An order would then prohibit the stalker from continuing this behaviour.

“This proposal goes further than recently introduced legislation in England and ensures that no matter the relationship between the victim and stalker, that an SPO could be granted.

“I welcome submissions to my consultation that will help shape the bill going forward.”