The law on harassment is set out in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. The law forbids any person from pursuing a course of conduct that amounts to harassment of another, which he knows or should know amounts to harassment of the other.
Although harassment can also be prosecuted in the criminal courts, for the purpose of this article we will only consider the civil action for harassment that may be brought by a victim against the person who is pursuing the course of conduct in question.
The 1997 Act does not define harassment, but harassment has been held to require misconduct that is oppressive and unacceptable. In order to consider a course of conduct as harassment, the conduct must involve at least two occasions. The facts of each case should be considered to determine whether the unacceptable conduct has occurred on more than one occasion.
The type of conduct that could amount to harassment include speech, computer-generated correspondence, as well as actions (among others). It is generally not sufficient to prove harassment by showing that the conduct was unpleasant and irritating, the conduct must go beyond that and become abusive and harassing. In other words, the conduct must ‘cross the line’ and cause the other person distress.
It should be noted that a person may also be liable for harassing a group of persons. For example, a person who embarks on a course of conduct by which he intends to persuade a group of persons not to do something that they are entitled to do or to do something that they are not under any duty to do could amount to harassment.
The remedy that can be obtained in a civil court by a victim of harassment includes injunction restraining the wrongdoer from pursuing any conduct that amounts to harassment of the person or persons mentioned in the injunction. The victim of the harassment may also be awarded monetary damages for distress and anxiety caused by the harassment, as well as damages for any financial loss resulting from the harassment.
Where an injunction has been granted against a person causing harassment and the person does anything he is prohibited from doing by the injunction he may be held in contempt of court and can be committed to prison and/or fined.
Contact us for advice and information on harassment.