Section 1 of the Act
The Protection from Stalking Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (‘the Act’) came into effect on 27 April 2022, it creates a specific offence of Stalking and a further offence of Threatening and Abusive Behaviour. It is important to note that the Act does not have retrospective effect.
Until the introduction of the Protection from Stalking Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, the legal protection from stalking in Northern Ireland was provided for by the harassment offence under Article 4 of the Protection from Harassment Order 1997 (Northern Ireland).
- An offence is committed by the perpetrator (hereinafter referred to as “A”) if
- A engages in a course of conduct
- that causes another person (hereinafter referred to as “B”) to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress;
- or is such that a reasonable person, or a reasonable person who has any particular knowledge of B that A has, would consider to be likely to cause B to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress; and
At least one of the further conditions must also apply that
- A engages in the course of conduct with the intention of causing B to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress;
- or that A knows, or ought in all the circumstances to have known, that engaging in the course of conduct would be likely to cause B to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress.
Conduct that amounts to stalking
Section 1(4) defines conduct that might cause fear, alarm or substantial distress as:
- Following B or any other person;
- Contacting or attempting to contact B or any other person by any means;
- Publishing any statement or other material either:
- Relating or purporting to relate to B or to any other person; or
- Purporting to originate from B or from any other person.
- Monitoring the use by B or by any other person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication;
- Entering any premises;
- Loitering in any place (whether public or private);
- Interfering with any property in the possession of B or of any other person;
- Giving anything to B or to any other person or leaving anything where it may be found by, or given to or brought to the attention of B or any other person;
- Watching or spying on B or any other person; (this might include vehicle tracking devices & dash-cams, fitness trackers & smart watches, home security CCTV & doorbells, baby monitors, smart home apps, google & Alexa, tracking through children’s devices).
- Acting in any other way that a reasonable person, or a reasonable person who has particular knowledge of B that A has, would expect to cause B to suffer fear, alarm or substantial distress.
If the court cannot be satisfied that the stalking offence has been made out then the court may convict of the alternative offence of ‘threatening and abusive behaviour’ provided the evidence adduced amounts to that offence. See the Threatening or Abusive behaviour page for further information.
The Act defines ‘substantial distress’ as distress that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s day-to-day activities. Examples of substantial adverse effects may include:
- The victim changing their route to work, work patterns or employment.
- The victim arranging for someone else to pick their children up from school.
- The victim putting additional security measures in place at home.
- The victim changing the way they socialise or stopping altogether.
- Deleting or stopping use of social media accounts.
- Changing phone numbers.
- Carrying a personal attack alarm.
- Not leaving home unaccompanied.
- Moving house.
- Changing children’s school.
- Moving house permanently or temporarily.
There are a few key points to note with this test – this is whether a reasonable person would consider the course of behaviour (or single act where appropriate) would be likely to cause fear or alarm. It is an objective test.
It should be considered whether a reasonable person would be likely to suffer fear or alarm and A intends the behaviours to cause fear or alarm or is reckless as to whether the behaviour causes fear or alarm.
Special Measures are a series of provisions that help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give their best evidence in court and help to relieve some of the stresses associated with giving evidence.
If you have been the victim of stalking you can apply for Special Measures. Our Victim and Witness Care Unit will speak to you about Special Measures if you feel vulnerable or intimidated giving evidence.
It should be noted however that you do not have an automatic entitlement and the court will decide whether or not to grant special measures, having considered the application, the views of the complainant, any supporting evidence provided and the representations of the defence.
Section 3 of the Act relates to extra-territorial jurisdictional powers – this provides that if the course of conduct and therefore the stalking behaviours or offence takes place wholly or partly outside of the UK, if the accused if habitually resident in Northern Ireland it can be treated as though it took place in Northern Ireland. If the person is a UK national, they do not have to be habitually resident in Northern Ireland.
It is a defence for a person charged with the offence of stalking to show that the course of conduct was authorised by virtue of any statutory provision or rule or law, was engaged for the purpose of presenting or detecting crime, or was reasonable in the particular circumstances.
A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable:
- on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years and/or fine.
- on conviction in summary proceedings to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months and/or fine.
For more information, please see the following pages: