Proposed Stalking Legislation 'Giant Step Forward' For NI - Long

Proposed new legislation to address the insidious crime of stalking, which is suffered and endured by many victims each and every day has been described as a "giant step forward" for Northern Ireland, Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.

As the proposed Protection from Stalking Bill moves to the Consideration Stage in the NI Assembly, Minister Long said: "Since becoming Justice Minister, I have made bringing forward stalking legislation a key priority. The moving of this Bill to Consideration Stage today marks another significant milestone in its progression.

I have met many victims of this horrendous crime and listened to the torture, fear and distress they have had to deal with on a daily basis. Women and girls are unfortunately, in the majority of those affected by stalking.

"I fully appreciate the devastating effect that stalking can have on its victims, and how manipulative and persistent a stalker can be. This new law, when agreed will ensure that victims have the protection that they need and deserve to feel safe."

The Bill, if passed, will create a specific offence of stalking and will be better focused on recognising stalking behaviour that can be fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated.

It will also include the offence of threatening or abusive behaviour which can be trigged by a single incident and provides that 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.

It will have greater and more appropriate penalties and protections than are available under current harassment legislation.

The Bill will also introduce Stalking Protection Orders. These orders will be a key tool for police, which will enable them to intervene early, prior to any conviction. This allows police to disrupt stalking behaviours before they become entrenched or escalate in severity; and through them, protect victims when there is an immediate risk of harm. Importantly, the onus is taken away from the victim to apply for these orders as the police will apply directly to the courts.

The Minister concluded: "This is a significant piece of legislation which I am confident will soon become law. It will help protect many people across Northern Ireland from living in the fear that this kind of crime creates."

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