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September 1999

Harassment Act 1997

Harassment is something which is often associated with family or employment disputes. Until as recently as 1997 if you were harassed the law could not protect you unless it was considered to be a serious type of harassment, e.g. assault, or your being stalked. It was only then that an application for a protection order could be made against the offender. The new Harassment Act 1997 has afforded greater protection to victims of harassment in many different kinds of situations in both private and in public.

What is Harassment?

A person harasses another person if he or she engages in a pattern of behaviour that is directed against another person. This behaviour includes doing any "specified act" to another person on at least two separate occasions within a period of twelve months. This may be:

  • the same type of specified act on each occasion; or
  • different types of specified acts; and
  • the specified act need not be done to the same person on each separate occasion, as long as the pattern of behaviour is directed against the same person.

What is a Specified Act?

1. A specified act means any of the following:

  • watching, loitering near or preventing or hindering access to or from, that person’s place of residence, business, employment or any other place that the person frequents for any other purpose;
  • following, stopping or accosting that person;
  • entering, or interfering with, property in that persons possession;
  • making contact with that person by telephone, correspondence, or in any other way; and
  • giving offensive material to that person, or leaving it where it will be found by, given to, or brought to the attention of that person.

2. Acting in a way that:

  • causes the person being harassed to fear for his or her safety; and
  • would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety.

3. This also includes the following situations:

  • the act is done to a partner or a member of the harassed person’s family;
  • acts that cause the harassed person to fear for his or her safety;
  • acting in a way that causes the harassed person to fear for his or her safety; and
  • would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety.

For further information or explanation, consult a solicitor at any of our offices.