NEW protection orders are in force to stop alleged stalkers in Swindon and across Britain from contacting their victims.

Officers can now apply to magistrates for Stalking Protection Orders to help safeguard victims of stalking.

If granted, the respondent must notify the police of their personal details within three days of receiving the order.

Those breaching the requirements could find themselves in jail for five years.

Wiltshire and Swindon Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, said: “I welcome the introduction of new Stalking Protection Orders – anything that provides victims of this awful crime more protection from the very outset should be seen as a positive thing.

“We must continue to raise awareness of stalking as a criminal offence to encourage victims to feel empowered and safe in reporting their concerns.

“I am aware that police forces nationally are recording significant rises in reports of stalking which is a result of awareness raising and improvements in crime recording.

“We must not be complacent, and we must continue to put victims at the heart of everything we do. The Horizon Victim and Witness Care Unit, which I fund, helps the most vulnerable victims through the criminal justice process across our county.”

Victims of stalking are encouraged to report their concerns to the police but only officers can apply for the orders under the new legislation. The orders are usually in place for at least two years.

Deputy chief constable Paul Mills, who is the national policing lead for stalking or harassment offences in England and Wales, has been working closely with the Home Office, parliamentarians and partners to oversee the introduction of SPOs nationally.

He said: “Stalking is a serious and prevalent crime, which can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims and those around them. Stalking impacts upon the mental and emotional wellbeing of victims and if not addressed at the earliest opportunity, can lead to the serious risk of physical harm.

“We, and police forces nationally, remain committed to doing all that we can to bring offenders to justice and safeguard victims. The introduction of SPOs is an important step in the response to these crimes.”

Research by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust suggests that the National Stalking Helpline respond to more than 3,500 requests for help every year.