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Harassment


Answer

Harassment
If someone approaches you or rings/texts you on two or more occasions then they may commit an offence of harassment. The incidents must be related so they become a course of conduct and 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, 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.

Stalking
If someone pursues a course of conduct that amounts to harassment as described above, then this may amount to an offence of stalking if the conduct involves acts associated with stalking. Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', legislation gives examples of acts that could amount to stalking. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • following a person;
  • contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means;
  • publishing a statement or other material relating to a person or purporting to relate to a person or purporting to originate from a person;
  • monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication;
  • loitering in any place (whether public or private);
  • interfering with any property in the possession of a person;
  • watching or spying on a person.

Fear of violence or serious alarm or distress
If someone is threatening you with violence then there is a more serious offence of harassment with fear of violence or stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress.

For the first offence to be committed, a person must engage in a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and causes another to fear that on at least two occasions, violence will be used against them. The person must know that their behaviour will cause fear of violence on each of those occasions.

In relation to conduct that amounts to stalking, the offence can be committed in two ways. Firstly if the conduct causes a person to fear that on at least two occasions, violence will be used against them; the person engaging in the conduct must know that their behaviour will cause fear of violence on each of those occasions. Secondly if the conduct causes a person serious alarm or distress which has a substantial effect on their usual day to day activities and the person engaging in the conduct ought to know that it will cause serious alarm or distress.

What can be done
If you feel that you are being harassed or stalked then you can contact your local police. If there are any threats of violence towards you, you should always inform the police and they will treat the matter with greater urgency.

In addition to any criminal proceedings, the police are able to apply for a Stalking Protection Order. This is a civil order similar to an injunction, which can impose restrictions on the person engaging in stalking behaviour. The order may prohibit the person entering certain locations or contacting the victim by any means. It can prohibit contacting any family members or friends of the victim or referencing them on social media. The restrictions imposed are tailored to the individual's circumstances. A Stalking Protection Order can be applied for whilst criminal proceedings are ongoing or before criminal proceedings begin to allow early intervention where behaviour could escalate to the committing of a stalking offence. A person who breaches a Stalking Protection Order commits a criminal offence.

There is a Stalking helpline and website which provides 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.

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 further information, please see links to websites in related information.


Answer

It is possible that this type of behaviour may constitute harassment ,see the related questions in Related Information. However, it would probably be best if you first made contact with your local neighbourhood policing team who may be aware of other incidents and know the identity of the youths involved (if you don't). Police Community Support Officers are a valuable source of information.

The officers may be able to consider applying for civil injunctions or Criminal Behaviour Orders if the same youths are persistently causing a community problem with these types of nuisance activities. These types of problems ,may not be solved straight away though, a lot of enquiries, research and observations may be required by both officers and members of the community in order to combat this anti-social behaviour.


Answer

For harassment to have been committed there must be a 'course of conduct' (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The behaviour does not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but would need to have caused some alarm or distress with an element of oppression required. The further apart the incidents are, the less likely that an offence of harassment has occurred. However, all the circumstances of the incident(s) will be taken into account when determining whether or not an offence has been committed.

The law takes into account the "reasonable person" test. Basically this means that if it was felt that a typical person (i.e. the average person on the street) would have acted in the same scenario under the same circumstances. , and would have been alarmed or distressed by the behaviour, then it may be considered that an offence has been committed. The offender knows or ought to know that their behaviour would cause the victim to be alarmed or distressed.

  • Example : A lives at number 2 and B lives at number 4, there is a dispute over a fence. A keeps going round to B's house to complain, enters into a verbal argument and refuses to leave until B agrees to consider his request. This happens every night for a fortnight. B is fed up and has told A not to visit any more, B is feeling distressed about A's constant visits. A is aware that his behaviour will cause distress to B as he is hoping to wear him down into removing the fence.

The above is an example of the type of behaviour that could be considered harassment without fear of violence. Harassment with fear of violence is when a person whose cause of conduct causes another to fear on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him/her, and who knows or ought to know that his/her behaviour will cause fear of violence on each of the occasions is guilty of an offence.

The law still takes into account the "reasonable person" test when making a decision as to whether harassment with fear of violence has occurred. If your average person would not have feared violence, it may not be considered an offence.

  • Example : A and B are neighbours and A is upset over a fence. A goes round to B's house every night for a week threatening violence to B and damage to the fence if B does not take the fence down. B fears violence, as A is very aggressive in manner. A is aware that his behaviour is aggressive and is hoping to intimidate B into taking the fence down.

There are two ways you can deal with this situation; through the police or the civil courts. If you decide to start civil proceedings, you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau (please see the link in Related Information to find your nearest one), or alternatively, inform your local policing team via their non-emergency 101 number. Where there are threats of violence you should always inform the police and they will treat the matter as a high priority.

For more information please see the websites in Related Information.


Answer

If you receive two or more nuisance or threatening communications this could amount to an offence of harassment. For harassment to be committed, there must be a 'course of conduct' i.e. two or more related occurrences. The communication does not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but it would need to be oppressive and cause alarm or distress.

The incidents must be related and must not be 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 takes into account the "reasonable person" test. This means that if it was felt that a person of reasonable firmness i.e. the average person on the street would not be alarmed or distressed, the offence is not committed. The offender must also be aware that the course of conduct they are pursuing would cause the victim to alarmed or distressed.

Example
A and B were partners, A finishes the relationship but B is not happy. B sends 30 communications over the course of a week begging A to reconsider. If A is then distressed by this course of action, an offence of harassment is likely to have been committed. Note however, if A was not distressed and ignored the communications, then no offence of harassment would have occurred.

There are two possible ways of dealing with this type of harassment; through the police or the civil courts. To commence civil proceedings you should contact the Citizens Advice Bureau, please see the link in related information to find your nearest one. Alternatively, if you would like police involvement you can contact your local policing team via the non-emergency 101 number.


Answer

Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.


Answer

It depends upon the type of incident you are reporting. This area of law is very complex, so the following is a basic guide only (as there are exceptions).

Road Traffic Accidents:

  • Reportable road traffic accidents (see questions in related topics for more details) must be reported as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case, within twenty-four hours.
  • Minor road traffic incidents e.g. failing to wear a seatbelt, have a time limit on prosecution of 6 months.
  • Serious road traffic incidents (e.g. dangerous driving) have no such time limit for prosecution.

Crime:

  • Most crimes do not have a time limit for reporting them.
  • The crimes that do have time limits are 'summary only' which means that they can only be tried at a Magistrates Court and are relatively minor offences; they must be prosecuted within 6 months e.g. common assault, harassment and taken without owners consent (TWOC).
Do bear in mind that the more time there is between the incident happening and reporting it to the police, the harder it will be for the police to gather the evidence.


Answer

What action you should take will depend on whether you and the suspect were in the same country when the offence occurred. If this is the case, you will need to make a report to the local police service of that country.

When making the report you should make a note of the date, time, details of the incident itself, which police officer and station it was reported to and any relevant contact information. This will help support any insurance claims made and will be useful if you are required to give evidence in court.
 
We would also advise that you find the nearest British Embassy, Commission or Consulate who will be able to assist you.
 
If you and the suspect are/were in different countries when the crime occurs then you will need to make a report to the police in your own country - not the country where you think the crime occurred. This is because there are official procedures that must be followed when investigating international crime, and the request must come from a recognised law enforcement authority.

To find your nearest Embassy and for further information, please see the websites in Related Information.


Answer

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales sets out the services that a victim of crime can expect to receive throughout the criminal justice process in England and Wales. It lists the organisations that must provide those services to the victim and sets a minimum standard for these services.

The full Code can be accessed via the relevant link in the Related Information section. However please find a summary of the Code below:

Right 1 - To be able to understand and to be understood

You have the Right to be given information in a way that is easy to understand and to be provided with help to be understood, including, where necessary, access to interpretation and translation services.

Right 2 - To have the details of the crime recorded without unjustified delay

You have the Right to have details of the crime recorded by the police as soon as possible after the incident. If you are required to provide a witness statement or be interviewed, you have the Right to be provided with additional support to assist you through this process.

Right 3 - To be provided with information when reporting the crime

You have the Right to receive written confirmation when reporting a crime, to be provided with information about the criminal justice process and to be told about programmes or services for victims. This might include services where you can meet with the suspect or offender, which is known as Restorative Justice.

Right 4 - To be referred to services that support victims and have services and support tailored to your needs

You have the Right to be referred to services that support victims, which includes the Right to contact them directly, and to have your needs assessed so services and support can be tailored to meet your needs. If eligible, you have the Right to
be offered a referral to specialist support services and to be told about additional support available at court, for example special measures.

Right 5 - To be provided with information about compensation

Where eligible, you have the Right to be told about how to claim compensation for any loss, damage or injury caused as a result of crime.

Right 6 - To be provided with information about the investigation and prosecution

You have the Right to be provided with updates on your case and to be told when important decisions are taken. You also have the Right, at certain stages of the justice process, to ask for decisions to be looked at again by the relevant service provider.

Right 7 - To make a Victim Personal Statement

You have the Right to make a Victim Personal Statement, which tells the court how the crime has affected you and is considered when sentencing the offender. You will be given information about the process.

Right 8 - To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness

If your case goes to court, you have the Right to be told the time, date and location of any hearing and the outcome of those hearings in a timely way. If you are required to give evidence, you have the Right to be offered appropriate help before the trial and, where possible, if the court allows, to meet with the prosecutor before giving evidence.

Right 9 - To be given information about the outcome of the case and any appeals

You have the Right to be told the outcome of the case and, if the defendant is convicted, to be given an explanation of the sentence. If the offender appeals against their conviction or sentence, you have the Right to be told about the
appeal and its outcome.

Right 10 - To be paid expenses and have property returned

If you are required to attend court and give evidence, you have the Right to claim certain expenses. If any of your property was taken as evidence, you have the Right to get it back as soon as possible.

Right 11 - To be given information about the offender following a conviction

Where eligible, you have the Right to be automatically referred to the Victim Contact Scheme, which will provide you with information about the offender and their progress in prison, and if/when they become eligible for consideration of parole or release. Where applicable, you also have the Right to make a new Victim Personal Statement, in which you can say how the crime continues to affect you.

Right 12 - To make a complaint about your Rights not being met

If you believe that you have not received your Rights, you have the Right to make a complaint to the relevant service provider. If you remain unhappy, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The police's responsibilities to a victim of crime are as follows -

A victim is classed as a person who is -

  • a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • a close relative (or a nominated family spokesperson) of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence;
  • 'businesses' are not included in this definition (see Note 2 on Page 3 of the Code for more information on this).

As a victim of crime you are entitled to receive the following from the police -

  • if the crime is finalised at source (not investigated) then the victim must be notified of this within 5 working days (1 working day under Enhanced Rights – see page 10 of the Code);
  • must supply the victim with written information on what to expect from the criminal justice system as soon as possible, and not later than 5 working days after reporting the crime;
  • must inform Victim Support services of the victims' details within 2 working days of the crime report (unless the victim asks them not to do so);
  • If the case goes to court the police must inform victims of the date, time and location of the first court hearing;
  • inform victims within 5 working days of receipt from the court, if an arrest warrant has been issued for a suspect who failed to attend court and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested;
 
You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you within 5 working days of a suspect being:
 arrested;
  •  being issued an out of court disposal
  •  interviewed under caution;
  •  released without charge;
  •  released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.
 
Informing the victim can include by letter, telephone, personal visit, fax, text message or email.

Vulnerable victims

Vulnerable victims are provided with an enhanced service. You may be classed as vulnerable if -

  • you are under 18 years of age at the time of the offence or
  • the quality of your evidence is likely to be affected because:

(i) you suffer from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983;
(ii) you otherwise have a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning; or
(iii) you have a physical disability or are suffering from a physical disorder

Vulnerable victims must be informed within 1 working day if a suspect has been arrested or a warrant has been issued due to the suspects failure to attend at court.


Answer

Depending on the exact nature of the information and how they have posted it (Have they sent the information to someone else? Have they posted it via their own account? Who has access to the information?), an offence may have been committed.

The offence of harassment may apply. For harassment to be committed, there must be a 'course of conduct' (i.e. two or more related occurrences). The information does not necessarily have to be violent in nature, but must be oppressive and need to have caused some alarm or distress. See Q497 for further information regarding this offence.

If the information is indecent, grossly offensive, obscene or threatening/menacing, then an offence relating to 'malicious communications' may have been committed. This offence does not require more than one incident. You can report any of these offences to your local policing team and they will then investigate and take appropriate action.

If the information posted does not fall under either of the above offences, then you may wish to consider whether the person has committed 'libel' (defamation of character - publishing a false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation). If this is the case, you would need to take action through the civil courts as this would be a civil matter and the police do not have any jurisdiction to assist with this. You should seek legal advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau and/or a solicitor before taking any action regarding this. Please see related information to find your local bureau.

In the first instance, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information, you may wish to initially make a report to Facebook/Twitter (before contacting the police/Citizens Advice/a solicitor), as these sites have processes in place for such situations, and may be able to simply remove the content and/or close down the person's account.


Answer

Cyber-flashing is the sending of obscene pictures to others over peer-to-peer Wi-Fi networks, such as AirDrop.

AirDrop is a feature on iPhones, iPods and iMacs that uses Bluetooth to create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between devices. When switched on, it automatically detects supported devices within a radius of 10 metres. Although AirDrop can be used in a harmless way as it allows people to share photos with family and friends, some people are using the facility to send obscene pictures to strangers, usually whilst they travel on trains or buses. This can take place anywhere where there is a Wi-Fi signal.

The victim receives an obscene picture on their device with a message request to accept it from the sender. The victim can see the picture whether or not they accept. This may cause the victim to be distressed and embarrassed, making them feel vulnerable, as they do not know who or why the person sending the photo has targeted them.

At present, there is no specific offence of 'cyber-flashing' but this behaviour can potentially fall within the offences of harassment or public nuisance. If you receive an obscene picture from a stranger in this way, whilst you are travelling on the rail network, take a screenshot of the photo and report the incident to the British Transport Police.
In order to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cyber-flashing over AirDrop, you can turn Airdrop off on your iPhone when you are not using it:

1 Go to Settings > General > AirDrop
2 Choose the option – Receiving Off

This will stop your device receiving AirDrop requests.

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