Commenting, Mr Storey said:
‘‘There can be no place for stalking in our society. Such behaviour has a profound and lasting impact on victims who very often have to change the way they live through no fault of their own. I am delighted that the Bill puts their interests first and will provide the vital tools needed to stamp out such activity in our communities.
Among the provisions included in the Bill are the creation of a new stalking offence and introduction of Stalking Protection Orders to enable the police to proactively intervene before harm can escalate. This will be key to providing criminal justice agencies with the powers to send a strong message that obsessive, unwanted and often terrifying behaviour will not be tolerated.
I am pleased that the Minister accepted the request by the Committee to bring forward additional protections covering guidance, training, data monitoring and reporting. This will be integral to assessing the effectiveness of the legislation.
While this Bill will unlock the door that leads to better outcomes, it is also critical that those enforcing the new powers benefit from training to ensure offences are prosecuted in an effective and timely way. Under Sinn Fein’s reckless and rudderless draft budget, the Department of Justice would have been the major loser. This could have constrained the PSNI’s ability to deliver bespoke training to officers on stalking offences. It is crucial that the potential for such disruption is mitigated. Going forward the criminal justice budget in Northern Ireland must fair, well-resourced and have the prevention of harm, whether it be from stalking, domestic abuse or coercive control, front and centre.
I want to pay tribute to the previous Justice Committee Chair, my colleague Mr Paul Givan MLA, for his work to lay the foundations for this vital piece of legislation.''