New Year brings the introduction of Stalking Bill to NI Assembly

Claire Edgar

29 January 2021

On 18th January 2021, Minister for Justice Naomi Long introduced legislative proposals for a Protection from Stalking Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The proposed Bill would create a specific criminal offence of stalking in Northern Ireland along with an offence of threatening and abusive behaviour that can be made out after a single incident.   

The proposed Bill also introduces Stalking Protection Orders which could be applied for by the Police on behalf of a person at risk of stalking. Such an Order could be made by the Court if it appeared that a person had carried out acts associated with stalking or posed a risk of stalking to another person, and if there was reasonable cause to believe a Stalking Protection Order would be necessary to protect other people from such risk.

The proposed legislation would also permit victims of stalking to avail of special measures assistance when giving evidence at Court, such as the use of live links or screens at Court.

When introducing the Bill, Ms Long indicated that : “The introduction of Stalking Protection Orders will be a key tool for police. These Orders will enable them to intervene, prior to any conviction, to address stalking behaviours before they become entrenched or escalate in severity, and to protect victims when there is an immediate risk of harm.”

The introduction of legislation governing Stalking will be readily welcome in Northern Ireland. At present, there are legal remedies in place to protect those who are being stalked or harassed. 

  1. Civil Injunction 
    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.  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. However, in order to make an application for a Civil Injunction, there must be evidence of two separate incidents of harassment.
  2. Non Molestation Order
    Under the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order (NI) 1998, if a victim and the perpetrator are deemed to be ‘associated persons’, then the victim has the option of applying for a Non-Molestation Order against the perpetrator.   In general terms, the parties are deemed to be ‘associated persons’ if they are family members, have lived together in a familial relationship or have a child together. If a Non-Molestation Order is granted by the Court, the perpetrator cannot molest, harass, pester, use or threaten violence against the victim.

Civil Injunctions and Non-Molestation Orders will continue to provide victims of harassment and/or domestic abuse with a private route to obtaining legal protection. However, the creation of the stand-alone criminal offence of stalking will undoubtedly give greater powers to the police in tackling complaints of stalking and will allow for more appropriate penalties to be imposed on perpetrators via our Courts. This will be a significant development in the law governing domestic abuse and harassment in our jurisdiction 

For advice and assistance in relation to securing protection from stalking or domestic abuse, please contact Claire Edgar via email at or by phoning our office on 028 9024 3901