Harassment & Stalking – Legal Advice
Harassment and Stalking are both governed by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA). Though they are not precisely defined in the Act, there are clear rules as to the way in which these offences are prosecuted.
This is generally recognised as behaviour which ‘causes alarm or distress’, or which puts a person ‘in fear of violence.’ This can include instances of repeatedly contacting someone via telephone, email or even social media. When tried in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £2,500. Stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress can be tried in either the Magistrates’ or Crown Court, and carries a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. A Restraining Order can also be issued in addition to any other punishment handed down.
s.2 of the PHA provides examples of the types of behaviour which can constitute stalking. This includes following, watching or spying on someone; interfering with a person’s property or publishing online statements about them. Triable only in the Magistrates’ Court, the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £2,500. If the stalking causes fear of violence, serious alarm or distress, it may be tried in the Crown Court, in which case the maximum sentence is 5 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £5,000.
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