Protection from Stalking legislation one step closer as Bill passes final stage at Stormont

23 February 2022

On 22nd February 2022, the Protection from Stalking Bill passed its Final Stage at the Stormont Assembly.

A new stalking offence would carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and would apply where there have been two or more occasions of stalking behaviour that causes a person to suffer fear, alarm or distress.

The legislation will also introduce Stalking Protection Orders which could be applied for by the Police on behalf of a person at risk of stalking. A Stalking Protection Order could be made by the Court if it appeared that a person had carried out acts associated with stalking or posed a risk of stalking to another person, and if there was reasonable cause to believe an Order would be necessary to protect other people from such risk.

The legislation would also permit victims of stalking to avail of special measures assistance when giving evidence at Court, such as the use of live links or screens at Court.

The introduction of legislation governing stalking will be readily welcome in Northern Ireland. At present, there are legal remedies in place to protect those who are being stalked or harassed. 

  1. Civil Injunction 
    The Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997 provides a victim with the ability to apply to the Court for a Civil Injunction against their stalker.  This remedy can be used where the victim and perpetrator are not related to one another via blood or marriage and indeed even if the perpetrator is not known to the victim. However, in order to make an application for a Civil Injunction, there must be evidence of two separate incidents of harassment.
  2. Non Molestation Order
    Under the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order (NI) 1998, if a victim and the perpetrator are deemed to be ‘associated persons’, then the victim has the option of applying for a Non-Molestation Order against the perpetrator.   In general terms, the parties are deemed to be ‘associated persons’ if they are family members, have lived together in a familial relationship or have a child together. If a Non-Molestation Order is granted by the Court, the perpetrator cannot molest, harass, pester, use or threaten violence against the victim.

Civil Injunctions and Non-Molestation Orders will continue to provide victims of harassment and/or domestic abuse with a private route to obtaining legal protection. However, the creation of the stand-alone criminal offence of stalking will undoubtedly give greater powers to the police in tackling complaints of stalking and will allow for more appropriate penalties to be imposed on perpetrators via our Courts. This will be a significant development in the law governing domestic abuse and harassment in our jurisdiction 

For advice and assistance in relation to securing protection from stalking or domestic abuse, please contact Karen Connolly via email at kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or by phoning our office on 028 9024 3901