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.