Do you need protection from harassment? The law on Stalking in Northern Ireland
Most of us never expect to be stalked and live in fear of a stalker. Approximately 45% of people who contact them are being stalked by people they have previously been in a relationship with, while a further one third will have had some prior acquaintance with their stalker. When things ramp up, the victim can feel helpless and vulnerable.
There is currently no legal definition of stalking but the persistent and unwanted behaviour can come in many forms such as following, observing and spying on someone, non-consensual communication, such as repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, and unwanted gifts.
Add to that showing up uninvited at the victim’s home school, or work, driving past the victim’s home or work. It can also include threats, physical/ sexual assault or cyber stalking online and on social media. The perpetrator can also reach members of your family and your friends to indirect harass you.
In November 2012 stalking was made a criminal offence in England and Wales However, in Northern Ireland, no legislation currently exists dealing specifically with stalking In March 2020, the Minister of Justice Naomi Long confirmed that she would be introducing stalking legislation in Northern Ireland as a priority and the Department of Justice is currently working on a Stalking Bill.
At present in Northern Ireland there are two options to protect you should you find yourself in this situation.
The Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997 provides a victim with the ability to apply to the Court for a Civil Injunction against their stalker.
A Civil Injunction, if granted, stops a person from harassing, assaulting, molesting or otherwise interfering with the victim, including restraining that person from being able to communicate or contact the victim and, in some cases, prohibiting them from being able to enter a certain property or area. This remedy can be used where the victim and perpetrator are not related to one another via blood or marriage and indeed even if the perpetrator is not known to the victim.
There must be evidence of two separate incidents of harassment. It is therefore important that any incident of harassing or threatening behaviour is logged with the Police and a police incident number retained. The matter can be applied for on an emergency basis before the court without the perpetrator having any knowledge of the application in the first instance.
Under the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order (NI) 1998, if a victim and the perpetrator fall under the category of ‘associated persons’, then the victim has the option of applying for a Non-Molestation Order against the perpetrator. They will be considered to be ‘associated persons’ if they are family members, have lived together in a familial relationship or have a child together.
A Non Molestation Order will protect the victim against further abuse and harassment whether direct or indirect. Any breach is an arrestable offence.
The Judge also has an option of granting an Occupation Order if they live with the perpetrator or if the perpetrator has some right to reside in their home (for example, if they are on the tenancy agreement or a joint owner). This means that the perpetrator will need to leave the home and cannot return to it whilst the Order is in place. In addition, the court can also make an exclusion zone, excluding the perpetrator from a particular place or within a certain radius of the victim’s home or workplace.
If you are the victim of stalking or harassment get in touch with us and we can assist you in seeking protection from the court. We can process your application on an emergency basis without the other party being informed of your application. Do not continue to suffer in fear. There are options available to assist you.