Scotland politics

MSP calls for new stalking protection order

Stalking victim Image copyright Getty Images

A backbench MSP is calling for a new law to give victims of stalking greater protection from the "incredibly serious crime".

The SNP's Mairi Gougeon is planning a members' bill at Holyrood that would, if passed, introduce new stalking protection orders.

Currently, people can go to the civil courts to have a non-harrasment order taken out against a stalker.

But it is then down to the police to apply for a stalking protection order.

There were 1,372 recorded cases of stalking in 2016-17, according to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey - more than double the total of 605 in 2012-13.

But the latest survey found less than a fifth (18.9%) had reported the most recent incident of stalking to the police.

Image caption Mairi Gougeon believes a new law could help stalking victims pursue justice

Ms Gougeon said: "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.

"While there are currently legal tools to tackle harrasment, a non-harrasment 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."

Ongoing abuse

Ms Gougeon has won the backing of campaigner Ann Moulds, who founded Action Against Stalking.

She said: "Stalking is a criminal matter and the police have a duty to ensure victim safety and protection from ongoing abuse at the earliest possible stage. This cannot be achieved under the current system.

"I am delighted Mairi Gougeon MSP is addressing this gap in the law and provisions for victims of stalking and fully support the introduction of a Stalking Protection Bill."