A law to combat stalking will help thousands of people suffering daily in Northern Ireland, the Justice Minister said.
t will create a specific new offence recognising the experience of victims and allow courts to impose tougher penalties.
It will enable police to intervene before the obsessive behaviour escalates and breaching any order to control it will attract a significant sanction.
📹 Today Minister Long presents the Second Stage of the Protection from Stalking Bill to the NI Assembly.
Here the Minister explains that the Bill is a âmajor step forward for victims of this insidious crimeâ pic.twitter.com/5QRJU07Xrt
— Justice NI (@Justice_NI) February 8, 2021
Naomi Long said: “This is a significant piece of legislation which will help thousands of people across Northern Ireland suffering daily from the torture of this insidious crime.”
The proposed Protection from Stalking Bill was discussed in the Assembly on Monday.
It will create a specific offence of stalking and include provision for the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders to Northern Ireland.
Convictions for the most serious offences would carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
The Bill will recognise in law, for the first time, that stalking is a course of behaviour that causes “fear, alarm or substantial distress” to the victim on two or more occasions.
The DUP’s Stormont Justice Committee chair Paul Givan backed the measures, saying: “It can have a profound and lasting impact on victims and it cannot be minimised in any way.
“That is why this legislation is needed.”
He said action was overdue.
“It provides the Assembly with the opportunity to scrutinise and pass legislation that will make a difference to people’s lives in Northern Ireland.
“The need for such robust legislation to provide the necessary tools for the criminal justice agencies to tackle stalking behaviour, taking into account patterns of such behaviour over time and bring the perpetrators to justice, is abundantly clear,” Mr Givan said.
It is insidious and terrifying for victims and there is no place for it in our societyPaul Givan
The collapse of Stormont power-sharing in January 2017 delayed law-making on stalking.
Other parts of the UK already have similar legislation in place.
Mr Givan added: “Stalking is fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated behaviour which often escalates quickly.
“It is insidious and terrifying for victims and there is no place for it in our society.”
Last month legislation creating a domestic abuse offence passed its final hurdle in the Northern Ireland Assembly.