Stalking Protection Orders: the acts associated with stalking
The non-exhaustive list of acts associated with stalking, and how forces can achieve best practice in protecting victims
Stalking protection orders (SPOs) are designed to protect victims from risky stalking behaviour. The police can apply for an order from the very outset of an investigation. An SPO will impose restrictions and conditions on a perpetrator’s behaviour. Importantly, the police do not need to prove that the perpetrator has committed a criminal offence. Rather, the police need to prove that the perpetrator has committed “acts associated with stalking”.
Section 2A of the Protection from Harassment Act provides a non-exhaustive list of “acts associated with stalking”:
- Following a person
- Contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means
- Publishing any statement or other material relating or purporting to relate to a person or purporting to originate from a person
- Monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communications
- Loitering in any place (whether public or private)
- Interfering with any property in the possession of a person
- Watching or spying on a person
Annex A of the Home Office Guidance on the Stalking Protection Act observes that there is no legal definition of stalking, but that the police and CPS have adopted the following description: “a pattern of unwanted, fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive. It can include harassment that amounts to stalking or stalking that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the victim."
One recent case that demonstrates very clearly some of these acts associated with stalking was reported in November 2021. Nishil Patel committed acts associated with stalking against the singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. It is reported that he sent “gifts” to Ms Ellis-Bextor, constantly attempted to contact her with abusive message, and attempted to contact her family members. City of London Magistrates’ Court made a 5-year SPO against Mr Patel which prohibits him from contacting Ms Ellis-Bextor and requires him to inform the police of any internet-enabled devices and their passwords.
Acts associated with stalking will often escalate in their number and severity. The longer the behaviour continues, the greater and more immediate the risk associated with that behaviour becomes. The benefit of applying for a SPO at a very early stage, when the police become aware of the behaviour, is that the perpetrator’s behaviour can be controlled and monitored. Breach of a SPO is a criminal offence for which an offender can be imprisoned.
Being able to recognise acts associated with stalking as early as possible is crucial to allow early intervention. Early recognition has to be accompanied by early action. Knowing your options in terms of civil protective orders will mean that measures can be sought from the outset to protect the victim.
Our team of dedicated police lawyers are experts in SPOs and can help your force to implement processes and provide bespoke topic-specific training to help achieve best practice. To find out more, visit our Stalking Protection Orders page.