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An increasing number of the people who come to us for help and support are telling us that they are being threatened with allegations of Harrassment or Stalking.
To help people to have a better understanding of the issues we've compiled the following brief guide from the Crown Prosecution Service website.
Anyone faced with allegations against them MUST seek professional legal advice and in the first instance look at the CPS guidance in full which is available here:
THE CHARITY CONDEMNS ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE INCLUDING HARASSMENT AND STALKING
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 'putting people in fear of violence' offences under section 4 of the PHA. The term can also include harassment by two or more defendants against an individual or harassment against more than one victim.
Although harassment is not specifically defined it can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contacts upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person.
The elements of the section 2 offence are:
- a course of conduct;
- which amounts to harassment of another; and
- which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.
Three defences are available 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; (*see below) or
- that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
(*) AN EXAMPLE OF A 'CONDITION' COULD BE WHEN ATTENDING AT A PROPERTY TO COLLECT A CHILD FOR CONTACT UNDER THE TERMS OF AN ORDER FROM A FAMILY COURT.
The elements of the section 4 offence are:
- a course of conduct;
- which causes another to fear that violence will be used against him; and
- which the defendant knows or ought to know will cause another to fear that violence will be used against him; and
- the defendant ought to know that his course of conduct will cause another to fear that violence will be used against them if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think that the course of conduct would cause the other so to fear on that occasion.
Section 4 also includes the following statutory defences. It is for the defendant to show that:
- the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime;
- the course of conduct 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
- pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of him or herself or another or for the protection of her, his or another's property.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 created two new offences of stalking by inserting new sections 2A and 4A into the PHA 1997. The two offences are in force from 25 November 2012 and provide further options for prosecutors to consider when selecting charges. The Home Office have issued guidelines and this can be accessed by clicking here.
Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', section 2A (3) of the PHA 1997 sets out examples of acts or omissions which, in particular circumstances, are ones associated with stalking. These include: physical following; contacting, or attempting to contact a person by any means (this may be through friends, work colleagues, family or technology); or, other intrusions into the victim's privacy such as loitering in a particular place or watching or spying on a person.
The effect of such behaviour is to curtail a victim's freedom, leaving them feeling that they constantly have to be careful. In many cases, the conduct might appear innocent (if it were to be taken in isolation), but when carried out repeatedly so as to amount to a course of conduct, it may then cause significant alarm, harassment or distress to the victim.
Paul Apreda, National Manager, FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru - July 2013