Police yet to use stalking injunction powers a year into launch
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Court orders promising better protection for victims of stalking were never used in Suffolk during their first year in existence.
Stalking Protection Orders (SPOs) were introduced on January 20 last year – allowing police to apply for restrictions on the behaviour of perpetrators – excluding them from entering a particular area or from making contact with a victim.
Legislation also allowed police to apply to magistrates for interim SPOs to provide immediate protection while investigations are ongoing.
Breaching the civil orders could result in up to five years imprisonment – a "substantial deterrent" and a way to enforce the law without adding strain on the victim, hoped the head of the Association of the Police and Crime Commissioners at the time of the launch.
In the 12 months since the introduction of SPOs, Suffolk police recorded 827 harassment offences and 157 stalking offences.
A Freedom of Information request revealed that, during the same period, the force declined to make any SPO applications.
Sussex police made 29 applications – although the county records the second highest number of stalking reports anywhere outside London.
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Eamonn Bridger, Suffolk's head of crime, safeguarding and investigations said police took all reports of stalking extremely seriously, adding: "We will use a range of methods to bring those responsible to justice.
"Each case is unique and officers continue to use harassment notices and bail conditions to protect victims from further harm.
“The civil orders are a useful additional tool that can be used in order to further protect victims from potential harm as the requirements can be tailored to each individual case.
“Training has been undertaken in reference to the application of Stalking Protection Orders to encourage more police officers to make court applications in future cases where it is appropriate.
"That said, the limited number of SPOs granted is a national issue and it is a complex legal process. The court can put forward other alternatives as well such as bail conditions and harassment notices.
“Be assured that we take stalking very seriously and urge you come and talk to us or relevant support groups if you have concerns, as we can help."