Characteristics of harassment law

Written by paul cartmell Google
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Characteristics of harassment law
Harassment can take many forms, including unwanted attention in the workplace. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Harassment and stalking are covered under UK law by the same Acts of Parliament that in general date back to 1997. With no specific legal definition of what constitutes harassment any criminal or civil prosecution can be difficult to prove; in general courts have the right to issue restraining orders against people accused of harassment or stalking.


The term harassment and its associated laws are often some of the most difficult to prove and can lead to a high level of alarm or distress for the victim of the crime. Across the world harassment and stalking are discussed in legal terms as taking place in a variety of environments; for example, in the US the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission regards harassment as taking place in the workplace and sets rules regarding correct behaviour in work environments. In the UK harassment is regarded as taking place in any environment and can be prosecuted in a court of law.

Legal definition

The Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 brought with it the first laws regarding the prosecution of people accused of harassing or stalking others; with no legal definition of what constitutes harassment the decision on bringing a case and the success of any trial is based on the discretion of the Crown Prosecution Service and court itself. For a harassment case to be successful the prosecution must prove an individual or group has embarked on a course of action designed to alarm or distress another individual, group, company or organisation. To prove the guilt of those charged with harassment two or more separate incidents must have occurred that can be classed as harassment.


There are various rules within the harassment laws that determine the different types of harassment or stalking that can take place. In the majority of cases an individual is harassed by another individual with repeated phone calls, text messages or threatening behavior. However, in some cases groups of people can be affected, such as people of a certain race, religion or sexual orientation, according to Liberty. Some individuals or groups of people have successfully prosecuted a company or organisation they feel have targeted them and caused distress in their lives; some companies have also prosecuted individuals they feel have harassed directors or employees of the company.

Restraining orders

UK courts have the right to place individuals, groups and companies under the terms of a restraining order and order them to stop harassing behaviour when harassment has been proven. This is not the only course of action open to the courts who can also impose stricter punishments and damages against those found guilty of harassment or stalking in civil cases. When an individual is acquitted of harassment UK courts have the right to impose a restraining order on the person defendant when it is deemed appropriate to stop any future issues occurring.

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