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A law aimed at preventing stalkers tailing their victims is a privacy act in disguise which could used by celebrities, royalty and crooks, according to a Newcastle barrister and former Bar Council member.
Neil Addison said the Protection From Harassment Act 1997, which is expected to come into force next month, will have a far wider impact than intended. The Act allows the civil courts to grant injunctions which if breached can be enforced by the police and the criminal courts.
Addison, who has co-authored a new guide on the act - Blackstones Guide to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - with London-based solicitor advocate Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, expects hunt organisers to use the act to obtain injunctions against animal rights activists, fraudsters to get injunctions against investigative journalists and celebrities like Princess Diana to get photographers off her trail.
"It is in effect a Privacy Act," said Addison.
He said the legislation, which was rushed through by the previous Conservative Government, could have much wider scope than the government intended since its parameters would have to be defined by the courts.
Addison is in no doubt that the legislation will be used almost immediately. "Giving the police new charges is like giving a kid a new train set - they have to go out and use it straight away," he said.
Police may first use the legislation in collaboration with local authority solicitors to obtain restraining orders imposing curfews and ordering young offenders to stay away from particular neighbourhoods.