Our team here at Forrest Williams are specialist harassment solicitors, ready to take your call. It is vital that you seek expert advice as soon as possible if you are charged with, or investigated for, this offence. Call our harassment solicitors now on 01623 397200.
What is meant by ‘harassment’?
Guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirms the term ‘harassment’ is used to cover the ‘causing alarm or distress’ offences under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as amended (PHA) and also the ‘putting people in fear of violence’ offences under Section 4 of the PHA.
It includes harassment of one person by two or more individuals, as well as harassment against more than one victim.
What are the issues with establishing a specific definition of ‘harassment’?
Section 7(2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) does not give a specific definition of harassment but case law has helped to establish what types of behaviour can constitute harassment.
Harassment can, according to the CPS, include:-
“…repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contact upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.”
How is a charging decision made under this legislation?
In order for a person to be prosecuted under Section 2 or 4 of the Act, the following evidence is required:-
- Harassment has taken place;
- The conduct was targeted at an individual;
- The conduct was calculated to alarm or cause distress;
- The conduct was oppressive; and
- The conduct was unreasonable
What is meant by ‘collective’ harassment?
Another form of harassment can be directed at members of a group, rather than at an individual. This is known as ‘collective’ harassment.
This type of harassment could include:-
- members of the same family;
- residents of a particular neighbourhood;
- groups of a specific identity including ethnicity or sexuality (for example, the racial harassment of the users of a specific ethnic community centre);
- harassment of a group of disabled people;
- harassment of gay clubs; or
- harassment of those engaged in a specific trade or profession.
What is meant by ‘stalking by proxy’?
This is when family members, friends and employees of the victim are subjected to harassment. The motivation for this is the knowledge that this behaviour will affect their victim as well as the other people involved.
What defences are there to a charge of harassment?
There are three defences to the Section 2 offence:-
- that the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime;
- that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment; or
- that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
If you are charged with harassment, it is vital that our harassment solicitors review the case thoroughly to advise whether you have any defence.
What sentencing powers do the courts have for harassment?
Harassment (Section 2) is a summary only offence, which means it can be tried in the magistrates’ court. As the sentencing powers of the magistrates’ court are limited, the maximum penalty for this offence is 6 months’ imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine.