Bearsden SNP MSP Rona Mackay is to take forward a Members’ Bill to create a new form of protection order in cases of stalking – making it easier for victims to access justice.
Victims of stalking can currently apply to a civil court for a non-harassment order, the breach of which is a criminal offence.
The proposed Bill would allow police to apply to court for a protection order on behalf of a victim of stalking.
This means 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.
Ms Mackay said: “This is an important piece of legislation that could make a real difference to victims of stalking. Stalking can have a severe and long-lasting impact on victims, yet the reporting rate for stalking and harassment is low compared to other crimes.
“Victims of harassment can currently apply to courts for a non-harassment order – but when somebody is in the vulnerable position of being stalked they may be hesitant about pursuing this, particularly if it comes at their own expense.
“Stalking protection orders would allow police to apply directly to the court on a victim’s behalf.”
Victims can be any gender, but women experience a higher than average level of stalking and harassment.
Commenting on the proposed Bill, a spokesperson from East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid said: “East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid is 100 per cent supportive of this Bill.
“Currently women being stalked and attempting to obtain a NHO (non-harassment order) will not be granted this unless the perpetrator has been given the opportunity of being heard or represented – in other words the incident is resulting in court action.
“Many women feel intimidated and frightened by the court process and this would alleviate some of the pressure.”