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Stalking – new legislation in place – 25th November 2012

Following the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 coming into force on 25th November 2012, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 has now been amended to include a new office of stalking.

Currently, under the Protection from Harassment Act, section 1(a) provides that a person must not pursue a course of conduct:—

(a)   which amounts to harassment of another, and

(b)   which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.

Section 2 provides that for the purposes of section (1), the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.

Action can be taken by the police under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and a civil injunction can also be obtained.

Under the new provision, a person will now be guilty of committing the new offence of stalking if that person pursues a course of conduct in breach of the prohibition on harassment in section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the course of conduct amounts to stalking. This new offence carries a maximum six month sentence.

The new offence of stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress carries a maximum 5 year sentence. A person would be guilty of the new offence where that person pursues a course of conduct amounting to stalking which causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them or it causes the victim serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse effect on their usual day-to-day activities and the person knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will have such an effect on the victim.

In addition to criminal proceedings, the High Court and the county courts have jurisdiction to grant a civil injunction for personal protection by forbidding harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.  Where the victim and the perpetrator of harassment or molestation are “associated persons”, within the Family Law Act 1996, the remedies under that Act are more comprehensive, particularly if occupation of the family home is an issue.

A person is associated with another person if they are or have been married to each other, they are or have been civil partners or each other, they are cohabitants or former cohabitants, they live or have lived in the same household, they have agreed to marry one another, they have entered into a civil partnership agreement, they have or have had an intimate personal relationship with each other which is or was of significant duration, in relation to a child both persons are parents or have or have had parental responsibility for the child, they are parties to the same family proceedings.  If the person is not associated with another person within that definition, then the remedy is under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

If you would like further advice in connection with the matters raised in this article then please contact Miss Vincent in our family department on 01926 422 101.

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