Stalking Protection Orders 

Stalking is agender-basedcrime,with 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experiencing stalking throughout their lifetimes.Stalking is a widespread crime, impacting an estimated 1.8 million people in the year April 2021 to March 2022 in England and Wales. 

Stalking Protection Orders(SPOs)came into force on the 20th January 2020. 

Whatis a Stalking Protection Order?    

A Stalking Protection Order (SPO) is a civil order, the aim of which is to protect victims of stalking. It must be applied for by thepolice andis free of charge for the victim. The breach of an SPO is a criminal offence.

A Stalking Protection Order is prohibitive. This means… 

The order can prevent the perpetrator from undertaking certain activities, such as:  

  • entering certain locations or defined areas where the victim lives or visits often; 
  • contacting the victim by any means, including via telephone, post, email, SMS text message or socialmedia ; 
  • contacting the victim through a third party.  

A Stalking Protection Order also has positive requirements. This means… 

The perpetrator may be ordered to carry out certain requirements such as:   

  • attend an intervention programme, such as the Multi- Agency Stalking Programme (MASIP); 
  • undergo a mental health assessment; 
  • undertake a drugs and alcohol rehabilitation programme; 
  • surrender their devices (e.g., laptop, mobile); 
  • provide the police with access to social media accounts, mobile phones, computers, tablets and passwords/codes;  
  • sign on at a police station. 

Police officers should use these sections as creatively as possible to tailor the SPO to the case at hand, in order to best protect the victim.  

Why apply for a Stalking Protection Order?  

It is vital that in cases of stalking, where a victim wishes to have protections in place, the officer first considers a Stalking Protection Order above other orders. Non-Molestation Orders (NMOs) and Restraining Orders do not offer positive requirements, limiting their scope. Furthermore, NMOs can only be used in cases of intimate partner violence; however, 50% of stalking cases are non-domestic, and therefore an NMO would not apply.  

How can the National Stalking Helpline and Advocacy Services help? 

We provide practical information, support and advice on risk, safety planning and legislation to victims of stalking, across the UK.  

Independent Stalking Advocates (ISAs) are trained specialists that can provide victims with support, advice and advocacy during a period of crisis, often when the stalker’s behaviour is escalating. They provide both practical and emotional support for every victim.  

Our report Bridging The Gap (2022) found that victims who were supported by an ISA had much higher rates of reporting to police, and were more successful in seeing their stalker charged, prosecuted, and convicted when compared to the national rates.  

To get support, you can contact the National Stalking Helpline.  

What is an example of good practice? 

Suzy Lamplugh Trust has seen positive cases in which the OfficerInCharge has proactively pushed for a Stalking Protection Order, regularly kept in contact with the victim and the advocate and made the victim feel believed and supported.  

What have beensome barriers to the efficient application of SPOs?   

Sadly, three years on we know that SPOs are not applied for as often as they should be, and breaches are not always responded to in a timely and efficient manner. Many cases, for example, show that police do not consider the legal thresholdto have beenmet for an SPO, andsubsequently erroneously declined the clients request. 

Therefore, on the 25 November 2022, on behalf of the National Stalking Consortium we launched a super-complaint against the police, finding systemic issues in the response to stalking across England and Wales, including issues with the use of SPOs.  

To read the super-complaint in full, including our list of recommendations, click here.