A NEW bill to make stalking a specific offence in the North of Ireland for the first time is to be introduced before the end of this year.
Justice Minister Naomi Long has confirmed the assembly timetable.
The PSNI currently deals with stalking under the Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997.
The North of Ireland is the only part of the UK that does not have specific anti-stalking laws.
In a letter to Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong, the minister said a Protection from Stalking Bill will be introduced to the assembly in November or December.
Mrs Long said drafting of the legislation by her officials was at an “advanced stage”.
A public consultation on proposed legislation to tackle stalking was carried out last year, and found the majority of respondents strongly supported its introduction.
There is no timeframe yet as to how long it could take the bill to pass through all assembly stages before becoming law.
Kelly Andrews, of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid, welcomed the progress.
“Stalking is a unique crime, driven by the fixation and obsession of the stalker and each stalking incident is different,” she said.
“It is a long-term pattern of behaviour that can last for weeks, months or even years.”
She added that the legislation was “vitally important to safeguard and protect victims and survivors of domestic violence”.