Q151: My ex partner keeps ringing/texting me and waiting for me outside work. I think they are stalking me, what can I do?
If your partner approaches you or rings/texts you on two or more occasions then s/he may commit an offence of harassment. The incidents must be related (so they become a course of conduct), not two isolated incidents. The further apart the incidents are, the less likely there is to be an offence of harassment. However, all the circumstances of the incident will be taken into account when determining if an offence has been committed.
The law uses a "reasonable person" test. Basically, this means that if it was felt that a person of reasonable firmness (i.e. the average person on the street) would not find the behaviour to be oppressive, alarming or distressing, the offence is not committed. The offender must also be aware that the course of conduct they are pursuing would cause the victim to be alarmed or distressed.
- B and C are ex partners but B cannot accept this fact and bombards C with phone calls and texts begging him to reconsider the relationship. C is distressed (but not in fear) by all this attention and just wants to move on. This is likely to be harassment.
- B and C are ex partners. B sends a bunch of flowers and a letter (on separate occasions) to C asking her to reconsider. C is upset by this action and just wants to move on. This is unlikely to constitute harassment, as it is improbable that a reasonable person would be distressed by B's course of action, as B does not intend to distress C, but is attempting to rekindle the relationship.
If your ex partner is threatening you with violence then there is a more serious offence of harassment with fear of violence.
Harassment with fear of violence is committed by a person whose course of conduct causes another to fear that on at least two occasions, violence will be used against him/her and who knows that his/her behaviour will cause fear of violence on each of those occasions.
The incidents must be related (so they become a course of conduct) and cannot be isolated. The further apart the incidents are, the less likely there is to be an offence of harassment.
The law takes into account the "reasonable person" test. Basically this means that if it was felt that a person of reasonable firmness (i.e. the average person on the street) would not fear violence, the offence is not committed.
B and C are in a relationship which ends acrimoniously. B continually rings and texts C with threatening messages directed towards her and her new partner. B threatens violence towards them and the house in which they live. C is fearful and distressed as she knows that B was violent throughout their relationship and she believes he could carry out some of the threats. This is likely to be an offence of harassment with fear of violence.
If you feel that you are being harassed and you want to involve the police then you should contact your local police on a non-emergency number and they will take details. If there are any threats of violence towards you, you should inform them, and they will treat the matter with greater urgency.
If you don't want to involve the police, you can see a solicitor who can, if necessary, begin civil proceedings. If your claim succeeds you may be awarded damages and/or an injunction. If there are any threats of violence then you are always advised to involve the police.
There is a new Stalking helpline and website that has been set up to give advice and support to those who are being stalked. It is run by Network for Surviving Stalking, Protection Against Stalking and the Suzy Lampugh Trust and is part funded by the Home Office. The number is 0300 636 0300 and e mail advice@stalkinghelpline .org. Advice from the website states that you should contact them if -
- you or someone you know are being made to feel harassed or intimidated by the behaviour of another person?
- you are unsure what can be done about this person's behaviour?
- you feel that you, your friend or family member are at risk of emotional or physical harm?
- you think this person has or will damage personal property?
- you feel you cannot go directly to the police about this behaviour?
For more information please see the websites in related information. There is a link to the 'Help for Victims' website and a Youtube guide to the website.