New court orders to stop stalkers in their tracks as offences across Yorkshire continue to rise

Latest figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post reveal a 51 per cent increase in stalking and harassment offences reported to police across the county in the 12 months to June 2019
Latest figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post reveal a 51 per cent increase in stalking and harassment offences reported to police across the county in the 12 months to June 2019
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New court orders are being brought into force to stop stalkers in their tracks while they are investigated by police as the number of offences across Yorkshire continues to rise.

Officers will be able to apply to magistrates for a Stalking Protection Order (SPO), blocking alleged perpetrators from contacting or approaching their victims while a probe into their behaviour continues.

The measures have been introduced in a bid to act at "the earliest opportunity" to protect victims from further approaches and take tougher steps on stalkers.

Usually in place for a minimum of two years, those who breach the civil order could end up behind bars for five years.

Latest figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post reveal a 51 per cent increase in stalking and harassment offences reported to police across the county in the 12 months to June 2019

The four Yorkshire forces recorded a total of 66,133 stalking and harassment offences.

Read more: What is stalking and where can you find support if you have a stalker
Campaigners and victims welcomed the news, but warned orders would only be effective if action was taken quickly and many still did not understand the dangers of stalking.

Clive Ruggles, of the Alice Ruggles Trust, described the orders as a "powerful new tool", but said it was "critical" there was no delay in arresting perpetrators who breach them, adding: "Any other response may well escalate the risk to the victim."

He said the existence of SPOs could have made a "critical difference" in the case of his 24-year-old daughter, who was murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend.

Read more: Crime rises across Yorkshire with stark increases in stalking, violence and possession of weapons
It is estimated one in five women and one in 10 men aged 16 and over in England and Wales have experienced some form of stalking, according to a crime survey carried out on behalf of the Office for National Statistics.

As well as a ban on pursuing victims, courts could use the new ruling to force perpetrators to seek professional help and urgent cases could be fast tracked with an interim order imposed.

Suky Bhaker, acting chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - which is named after the 25-year-old estate agent who went missing in 1986 and is presumed murdered, said the move was an "important step forward in the way stalking is handled" and "an acknowledgement of the suffering victims of stalking can face".

Victoria Atkins, minister for safeguarding and vulnerability, said: "I am determined that we do everything we can to better protect victims and new Stalking Protection Orders will help the police to intervene and take action against perpetrators at the earliest opportunity."