Harassment is unwanted behaviour from someone which makes you feel distressed,humiliated, or threatened. It could be someone you know, like a neighbour or people fromyour local area or it could be a stranger. The behaviour must happen on more than oneoccasion by the same person to be considered harassment. If you are being harassed and youfeel you are in danger you should contact the police, it is a criminal offence to harass or put someone in fear of violence.
Examples of harassment include:
• unwanted phone calls, letters, emails texts or visits
• abuse, verbal or online
• verbal abuse and threats
• An act of violence such as causing damage to property.
Whilst there is no strict legal definition of 'stalking', the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 lists a number of behaviours such as watching or spying on a person, contacting, or attempting to contact a person by any means, monitoring a person’s use of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication.
You should record what is happening, keep copies of any email’s texts or social media posts to include the time and dates and the impact it had on you. You can take screen shots to show the exact content of the messages, note any vehicle registration numbers and details of any personal encounters to include what was said, do not get into a discussion with them.
Ultimately it is for the courts to decide if something is harassment or stalking, they will consider whether a reasonable person would interpret same set of behaviours as harassment.
The development of technology has created other ways for stalking and harassment to occur.There are different types of online stalking i.e., catfishing, hijacking web cameras and virtually visiting people via Google Maps Street View. You can help to protect yourself by limiting the amount of information readily accessible online and by reviewing your privacy settings and limiting your visibility on social media so only family or people you are friends with can view your account and what you are posting.
If you are being harassed on the internet you should try to stop that person from contacting you, for example by 'blocking' them in a chatroom or on a social network. If something makes you uncomfortable on a social network, you can also click the 'report' button.
Try to get evidence of the bullying by making copies of any threatening online conversations, for example by saving emails or taking screen shots.
The police may issue an informal harassment warning, this informs the accused about the law in relation to harassment and if they receive any further reports in the future, they may take further action which could result in them being prosecuted . If the accused is not charged you may be able to apply for an injunction, the type of injunction would be determined by the relationship with the accused and the harassment suffered. The orders must be reasonable and relevant to the harassment. If the accused breaks the injunction they can be reported to the police or an application can be made to return to court for the injunction to be enforced. If the accused is found guilty of breaking the injunction, they could be sent to prison for up to 5 years, receive a fin or both.