First stalking prevention order issued within hours of new rules coming into force

The first stalking prevention order is thought to have been handed down by the courts within hours of new rules coming into force.

The order was issued at Brighton Magistrates’ Court (pictured) on Monday morning after the measure was brought in at midnight, according to Sussex Police.

The force said it is believed to be the first of the civil orders in the country and bans a 22-year-old man from Lancing, West Sussex, from contacting a woman in her early 20s.

According to a spokesman, the order relates to the man’s “alleged online stalking of a woman” who lives elsewhere in the UK.

The spokesman added: “The man was present in court and did not contest the application, which was granted and prohibits him from contacting the woman directly or indirectly, by whatever means; sharing or posting any photograph of her on the internet, social media or in any public place; sharing or posting any photograph of her to any other individual.

“The order will last indefinitely.”

A criminal investigation is ongoing and no charges have been brought.

Under the new rules officers can 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.

Campaigners and victims welcomed the news, but warned orders would only be effective if action was taken quickly, and that many people still do not understand the dangers of stalking.

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 be jailed for five years.

Applications to the court are meant to be heard in public and the details of the order, once granted, are a matter of public record, according to the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Sussex Police said they would not name the man in question because he has not been charged with a crime.

Brighton Magistrates’ Court did not respond when contacted for details about the case.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.