A former premier league footballer, Shayne Bradley, recently pleaded guilty to stalking a former girlfriend.
It was said he followed her, watched her house, sent mails and made abusive phone calls. He hid in hedges near her home and set up a fake dating profile to make contact. The conduct was over a four-month period, but he also breached bail conditions that were imposed. He was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months imprisonment and was also made subject to a five-year restraining order preventing contact with the victim.
Stalking Protection Orders
Stalking protection orders were introduced in 2020 to provide support for victims. An application is made to court for an order, usually in place for two years. An interim order can also be obtained whilst a full order is considered. Breach of the order is punishable with up to five years imprisonment.
The order can be made if it appears a person has carried out acts associated with stalking where that person poses a risk to another, and the order is necessary to protect that third party from that risk. Such orders would usually prevent contact with the named party with a potential exclusion zone. In that regard, they are similar to bail conditions that the police and the courts can impose.
The difference between the order and bail conditions is that a breach of the order is a criminal offence. A breach of bail conditions leads to a reconsideration of the grant of bail and isn’t a criminal offence.
However, a BBC investigation found that only two orders have been granted in Wales compared to 3,000 stalking offences being reported to the police. In Sussex, the Police and Crime Commissioner said thirty orders had been imposed with more in the pipeline. The PCC is said to be a victim of stalking and is the lead for stalking in England and Wales, which may explain the disparity. She is urging other forces to make use of the power.
In Bradley’s case, more stringent bail conditions were imposed following breaches of bail. If bail was breached while he was still under investigation, the only option available to the police was to charge him with the original offences or to re-bail him. If a stalking protection order had been in place, a breach could have resulted in further criminal charges.
It may be that the use of these orders will increase due to calls being made for training for police officers on the orders. As the orders last for a minimum of two years, it is a severe restriction for an individual.
It is for this reason that expert advice is vital.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.
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There are two distinct criminal offences, one of harassment putting people in fear of violence and one without. Stalking is a similar but separate offence and is not covered in this article.
What does it involve?
There has to be a course of conduct involving as little as two incidents against another person or persons.
The dictionary definition is to “torment by subjecting to constant interference or intimidation”.
The law does not provide a comprehensive definition and there are many actions that can foreseeably alarm or cause a person distress that would not constitute harassment.
The offence is aimed at conduct that alarms or causes a person distress and which is oppressive and unreasonable.
What do the prosecution have to prove?
- That there is a course of conduct;
- which amounts to harassment of another; and
- which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.
Additionally, for the more serious offence the prosecution has to prove:
- that the course of conduct causes another to fear that violence will be used against him; and
- that the defendant knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause another to fear that violence would be used against him
How do I know it is harassment?
The test of whether you ought to know whether the course of conduct amounts to harassment is whether a reasonable person, in possession of the same information, would think the conduct amounted to harassment. The same test applies in respect of fear of violence.
Are there any time limits?
At least one of the incidents has to have occurred within six months of the charge, for the basic offence without violence.
What about defences?
There are three available defences for the basic offence:
- that the course of conduct was for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime;
- that it was conducted under a rule of law;
- that it was reasonable in the circumstances.
Additionally, it is a defence for the more serious offence if the course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of the defendant or another or for the protection of their or another’s property.
What sentence can I get?
For the offence without violence (the basic offence) up to six months imprisonment can be imposed (2 years if racially aggravated).
For the more serious offence involving fear of violence the maximum sentence was 5 years and is 10 years for offences committed on or after 3rd April 2017 (7 or 14 years if racially aggravated, again dependent on date of offence).
A restraining order can also be imposed, the aim of which is to protect the victim of the offence from further incidents, contact or risk of violence. Such an order can prevent contact with the victim and provide for an exclusion zone around their address. A restraining order can be imposed even if you are acquitted of the offence.
The law in respect of harassment and the potential defences is complicated, and there are other specific offences of harassment (for example of debtors) that are not covered in this article.
How we can assist
If you are being investigated for or have been charged with this offence please contact our office for further advice and representation, our solicitors are experts in criminal law and can guide you through the complexities. Please contact John Howey on 020 73881658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More