Cheshire Constabulary has secured its first full Stalking Protection Order.
The civil order, which places strict restrictions on a Runcorn man for the next five years, is one of only a handful to be granted in the country.
The order prohibits him from contacting or approaching a named woman, contacting or interacting with her family and friends and bans him from entering a particular area of the county.
It also means that he must immediately hand over any electronic devices when requested by a police officer and must give access to passwords and log-in details.
Detective Chief Superintendent Denise Worth, who is in charge of Cheshire’s Public Protection Directorate, said: “Once again we are proud to be leading the way in Cheshire. This full Stalking Protection Order is a first for the force and is testament to the dedication and hard work of all those involved in securing this order at court and safeguarding a woman who is potentially at risk of stalking behaviour.
“It is a great example of team work at its best. The officers involved in the case have worked extremely hard alongside solicitors from the force’s legal team and dedicated Domestic Abuse officers working within the force’s Public Protection Directorate to ensure a positive outcome for the victim with a full order being granted.
“Not only does it restrict the activities and movements of the man for the next five years, it also provides peace of mind to the victim that safeguarding measures are in place if needed.”
Stalking Protection Orders, which were introduced in January 2020, are one of a number of options available to police forces to help safeguard and protect victims at risk of stalking.
They are civil orders made on application by police through magistrates’ court and applications for interim or full orders can be made. An interim Stalking Protection Order is a temporary order that can be imposed immediately if the court considers it appropriate to do so.
In this case, an interim order was put in place in March, reviewed in July and extended until a hearing on 13 August at Cheshire East Magistrates’ Court where the full order was granted.
A full Stalking Protection Order requires a finding in law that a person has pursued a course of conduct amounting to stalking behaviour and that an order is necessary to protect a person from such a risk.
It is not an alternative to a prosecution but allows police forces and courts to move quicker to ban alleged stalkers from contacting victims or visiting their home or place of work or study.
The order can be granted without a conviction in place. Breaching the terms of a Stalking Protection Order is a criminal offence.
Joanne Clark, from the force’s Legal Services Team, said: “The impact of stalking behaviour should never be underestimated and I hope that this case highlights once again that, as a force, we are committed to doing everything we can to make sure that all options are explored when dealing with this type of behaviour and to ensure the best possible outcome for the victim.
“Together with the valuable work our officers are involved in as part of the Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit, we are helping to make a real difference to people affected by this issue.”
Only the second in the country – and the first of its kind in the North West – the Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit is being run by Cheshire Constabulary in partnership with North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
The unit is jointly funded by the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire and all agencies are working together to help stalking victims and the risk caused by perpetrators through a range of interventions.
The unit operates from a base in Warrington and involves an experienced and dedicated team of police officers and mental health professionals and outreach workers along with victim advocates who provide practical support, safety planning and advice for stalking victims regardless of whether the stalker’s identity is known.
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “Stalking is an abhorrent crime which leaves its victims living in fear. I am pleased to have provided funding to support the work of Cheshire’s Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit which works hard to address stalking at its root-cause and provide protection and support for victims of the crime.
“Cheshire Constabulary is one of the first forces to secure a full Stalking Protection Order and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of officers and the force’s legal team in securing this.
“It is an important tool that can be used to deal with stalking behaviour and will provide vital reassurance to the victim that we are taking the issue seriously and doing everything we can to help.”
For more details about SPOs visit the Government website.