This week I announced that I’d bring forward a Members’ Bill to make it easier for victims of stalking to access justice.
Stalking is an incredibly serious crime which can have a life-changing impact on victims, and which is too often not reported to police at all.
Research has found that stalking can have a severe and long-lasting impact on the mental health and wellbeing of victims, including damaged relationships with family and friends and financial ramifications where victims change job or move home.
Victims of stalking can currently apply to a civil court for a non-harassment order, the breach of which is a criminal offence. But a non-harassment order requires victims to take legal action themselves through the civil courts.
There are obvious reasons why some victims of stalking would not be willing to do this, not least that it may cost them personally if they do not qualify for legal aid.
The introduction of stalking protection orders, allowing police to apply directly to the court where there is evidence of stalking, could help victims to pursue justice.Mairi Gougeon MSP
My proposed bill would create an alternative to non-harassment orders – stalking protection orders – which would allow police to apply to court for a protection order on behalf of a victim of stalking.
The introduction of stalking protection orders, allowing police to apply directly to the court where there is evidence of stalking, could help victims to pursue justice.
It would mean that victims would not have to take legal action through the courts themselves at a time when they may be particularly vulnerable, and which may be at their own expense if they do not qualify for legal aid.
I look forward to bringing forward my Members’ Bill and hope to achieve cross-party support for these proposals.
Mairi Gougeon is SNP MSP for Angus North and Mearns.