UK Harassment lawyers with offices in London, Sussex, Surrey & York
We think it is fair to say that many people do not realise that harassment is in fact both a criminal offence and a civil cause of action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. As a result, should the Police be unable to assist you with your harassment allegation, then you always have the option to pursue a claim via the civil courts.
What is Harassment?
In short, harassment is when someone behaves in a way which makes you feel distressed, humiliated, fearful or threatened.
It could be someone you know, for example a neighbour or people from your local area or it could even be a stranger.
Some examples of harassment include:
- Unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits
- Fear of violence
- Abuse and bullying online via social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc)
- Verbal abuse and threats
- Domestic abuse
It is important to be aware that there is a time limit for bringing a claim for harassment. You need to commence your claim within six years of when the harassment occurred.
It is up to the Court to decide if a course of conduct amounts to harassment under the Act. In doing so the Court will look at whether most people or a reasonable person would think the behaviour amounts to harassment.
If you have experienced harassment at work and also believe that the harassment was discriminatory (on the grounds of your gender, race, age etc.) then it is also possible to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal under the Equality Act 2010, where you can be compensated for the injury to your feelings. It is important to remember that the deadline for bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal is three months.
It's also possible to bring criminal proceedings against the person harassing you. Most people think that it is only the Crown Prosecution Service ("CPS"), who can instigate criminal proceedings against a defendant, however, that is not true. You may be able to start what is called a “private prosecution” where, although the police and the CPS do not commence the proceedings, you can bring criminal proceedings against a defendant.
What can the Court do?
The Court can make an order or injunction that the person harassing you must stop their behaviour. If they do not stop harassing you, after the Court has made an injunction against them, they can be prosecuted for a criminal offence and possibly be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
You can also ask the court for compensation if you’ve suffered financial or emotional loss - for example, if the harassment has made you feel anxious or distressed. You may also be able to claim for any financial losses suffered as a result of the harassment (e.g. if the harassment prevented you from attending work). You can also apply to court for a Restraining Order against the perpetrator if they are prosecuted via the criminal courts.
It is important to remember that if you are being harassed and you feel that you're in danger, you should contact the police. However, should they not be able to deal with your matter, other options are available to you.
Please note, if you feel you are being harassed because of your disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation, you can report the harassment to the police as a hate incident or crime.