APCC Victims Lead, Dame Vera Baird QC said:
“The APCC welcomes the Stalking Protection Bill which will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons today. It offers a strong way of intervening early to control stalking, in particular where there is no domestic relationship between the parties. A recent HMIC report made clear that in domestic violence situations police have sufficient powers. However, stalking can be by strangers, workmates or ‘admirers’ and it’s imperative that there is a smart tool in play to stop it.
“The Stalking Protection Order will be available to police on the civil standard of proof but breach of it will be a criminal offence carrying a potential sentence of five years. This is a substantial deterrent. We congratulate Dr Wollaston MP on introducing the Bill, backed by the Home Office.
“In our view there are a few ways in which the Bill could be even better. First, there is a requirement that the application for an order is made by a police officer in the area where the stalker resides. But stalking is cross-border. Surely it would make sense to get the police where the victim resides to be able to make the application. That is where the stalking will be going on.
“A concern is the defence of reasonable excuse for stalking. We think there should be a very tight test indeed. It would not be a reasonable excuse that this was revenge for some allegedly just offence, that it was acts of admiration or any of the other justification someone obsessed and fixated is likely to put forward. We think magistrates will require tight guidance on this.
“We welcome that both negative and positive requirements can be put on the Stalking Protection Order. That means the individual can be excluded from entering a particular area, contacting someone et cetera.
“However, positive conditions on an Order are more difficult. There is a proposal that such a requirement might be for a stalker to go on a perpetrator course, yet of course this is dependent on availability. Additionally, costs of any positive condition need to be funded through the Court’s resources, they certainly could not fall upon the Police.”