By Isobel Phillipson
What is a Stalking Protection Order (SPO)?
Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs), although technically civil orders, are certainly something Olliers can assist with.
These are separate to police investigations, meaning that the police could take no further action in relation to the criminal investigation, but still apply for (and possibly be granted) an SPO.
SPOs are orders that the police can apply to the court for, which can either prohibit a defendant from doing certain things, or compel them to do certain actions. An SPO always requires the defendant to notify the police of their name and address within three days of the order being made, and notify the police of any change in these details within three days of the change.
SPOs were only introduced in 2019. Police can apply to the Magistrates Court to request that they make the order. The idea behind SPOs is to protect victims of stalking, enabling early police intervention and address stalking behaviours before they escalate. Although often made pre-conviction, an SPO could still be made following a conviction or acquittal.
When can Stalking Protection Orders be granted?
It doesn’t matter if the defendant has no previous convictions for stalking offences, an SPO may still be granted. It can apply in a domestic context, or to ‘stranger stalking’. An SPO can be granted against youths also, from the ages of 10-18. The criteria under which the police will consider applying for an SPO are:
- The defendant has carried out acts associated with stalking
- The defendant poses a risk of stalking to a person
- There is reasonable cause to believe the SPO is necessary to protect someone from that risk
Police will consult the victim for their views on an SPO. The victim must have reasonably found the behaviour unwelcome, the defendant must reasonably have known this, and the behaviour must reasonably be regarded as posing a risk to the victim.
The risk of stalking may be in relation to physical harm to a person, psychological harm to a person, or physical damage to property. Risk can arise even if in other circumstances or individually the acts may appear harmless, if the defendant knows or ought reasonably to know that acts were unwelcome.
If granted, the order will be served on the defendant, along with information on the appeal process and the notification requirements imposed.
Impositions a Stalking Protection Order may make
Examples of the impositions an SPO may make are:
- Requiring defendant to stay away from a particular individual
- Requiring defendant to stay away from a certain area/location (where the victim resides or frequently visits)
- Prohibiting defendant from contacting the victim by any means
- Requiring defendant to attend drugs or alcohol programme
- Requiring defendant to provide the police with access to social media accounts, or electronic devices
- Requiring defendant to sign on at a police station
Police are able to seek conditions that they feel best protect the victim and rehabilitate the perpetrator.
Breaching an SPO is a criminal offence, for which the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment.
If an application by the police for an SPO to be imposed is not contested, it can be dealt with by the courts administratively.
How can we help?
We at Olliers are able to act on the defendant’s behalf to contest the application. We can liaise with the police force legal department in relation to the progress of their application. We can request sight of the draft application and bundle of supporting documents that are to be submitted by the police. Depending on the client’s instructions, we could then liaise with the police to see if we can perhaps come to some sort of agreement as to appropriate conditions to be attached to the order. If no agreement is possible, there will be a hearing at the Magistrates Court, during which the defendant may have to give evidence. We can attend that hearing as an advocate to make representations as to why an order should not be granted, or certain conditions or prohibitions not imposed.
Please contact our specialist team on 0161 834 1515, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form below.