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PROTECTION FROM HARASSMENT ACT 1997

UK Public General Acts

Version 01/07/2005

1997 CHAPTER 40

Default Geographical Extent: E+W+S


Introductory Text

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

1997 CHAPTER 40

An Act to make provision for protecting persons from harassment and similar conduct.

[21st March 1997]

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

England and Wales (E+W)


1 Prohibition of harassment. (E+W)

(1) 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.
[F1 (1A) A person must not pursue a course of conduct —

(a) which involves harassment of two or more persons, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know involves harassment of those persons, and
(c) by which he intends to persuade any person (whether or not one of those mentioned above) —
(i) not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or
(ii) to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.]
(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to [F2 or involves] harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to [F2 or involved] harassment of the other.

(3) Subsection (1) [F3 or (1A) ] does not apply to a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—

(a) that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
(b) that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
(c) that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F1 S. 1(1A) inserted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(2)(a), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

F2 Words in s. 1(2) inserted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(2)(b), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

F3 Words in s. 1(3) inserted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(2)(c), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)


2 Offence of harassment. (E+W)

(1) A person who pursues a course of conduct in breach of [F4 section 1(1) or (1A) ] is guilty of an offence.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

F5 (3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F4 Words in s. 2(1) substituted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(3), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

F5 S. 2(3) repealed (1.10.2002) by 2002 c. 30, s. 107, Sch. 8; S.I. 2002/2306, art. 2(g)(iii)(e)


3 Civil remedy. (E+W)

(1) An actual or apprehended breach of [F6 section 1(1) ] may be the subject of a claim in civil proceedings by the person who is or may be the victim of the course of conduct in question.

(2) On such a claim, damages may be awarded for (among other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment.

(3) Where—

(a) in such proceedings the High Court or a county court grants an injunction for the purpose of restraining the defendant from pursuing any conduct which amounts to harassment, and
(b) the plaintiff considers that the defendant has done anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction,
the plaintiff may apply for the issue of a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.
(4) An application under subsection (3) may be made—

(a) where the injunction was granted by the High Court, to a judge of that court, and
(b) where the injunction was granted by a county court, to a judge or district judge of that or any other county court.
(5) The judge or district judge to whom an application under subsection (3) is made may only issue a warrant if—

(a) the application is substantiated on oath, and
(b) the judge or district judge has reasonable grounds for believing that the defendant has done anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction.
(6) Where—

(a) the High Court or a county court grants an injunction for the purpose mentioned in subsection (3) (a) , and
(b) without reasonable excuse the defendant does anything which he is prohibited from doing by the injunction,
he is guilty of an offence.
(7) Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (6) in respect of any conduct, that conduct is not punishable as a contempt of court.

(8) A person cannot be convicted of an offence under subsection (6) in respect of any conduct which has been punished as a contempt of court.

(9) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (6) is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F6 Words in s. 3(1) substituted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(4), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

Commencement Information

I1 S. 3 wholly in force at 1.9.1998; S. 3 not in force at Royal Assent see s. 15; s. 3(1)(2) in force at 16.6.1997 by S.I. 1997/1498, art. 2; s. 3(3)-(9) in force at 1.9.1998 by S.I. 1998/1902, art. 2


[F7 3A Injunctions to protect persons from harassment within section 1(1A) (E+W)

(1) This section applies where there is an actual or apprehended breach of section 1(1A) by any person (“the relevant person”).

(2) In such a case—

(a) any person who is or may be a victim of the course of conduct in question, or
(b) any person who is or may be a person falling within section 1(1A) (c) ,
may apply to the High Court or a county court for an injunction restraining the relevant person from pursuing any conduct which amounts to harassment in relation to any person or persons mentioned or described in the injunction.
(3) Section 3(3) to (9) apply in relation to an injunction granted under subsection (2) above as they apply in relation to an injunction granted as mentioned in section 3(3) (a).]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F7 S. 3A inserted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(5), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)


4 Putting people in fear of violence. (E+W)

(1) A person whose course of conduct causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him is guilty of an offence if he knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause the other so to fear on each of those occasions.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it will cause another to fear that violence will be used against him on any occasion if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct would cause the other so to fear on that occasion.

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to show that—

(a) his course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
(b) his course of conduct was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
(c) the pursuit of his course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of himself or another or for the protection of his or another’s property.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.
(5) If on the trial on indictment of a person charged with an offence under this section the jury find him not guilty of the offence charged, they may find him guilty of an offence under section 2.

(6) The Crown Court has the same powers and duties in relation to a person who is by virtue of subsection (5) convicted before it of an offence under section 2 as a magistrates’ court would have on convicting him of the offence.

5 Restraining orders. (E+W)

(1) A court sentencing or otherwise dealing with a person (“the defendant”) convicted of an offence under section 2 or 4 may (as well as sentencing him or dealing with him in any other way) make an order under this section.

(2) The order may, for the purpose of protecting the victim [F8 or victims] of the offence, or any other person mentioned in the order, from further conduct which—

(a) amounts to harassment, or
(b) will cause a fear of violence,
prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order.
(3) The order may have effect for a specified period or until further order.

(4) The prosecutor, the defendant or any other person mentioned in the order may apply to the court which made the order for it to be varied or discharged by a further order.

(5) If without reasonable excuse the defendant does anything which he is prohibited from doing by an order under this section, he is guilty of an offence.

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or a fine, or both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both.
Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F8 Words in s. 5(2) inserted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(6), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

Modifications etc. (not altering text)

C1 S. 5 modified (30.9.1998) by 1998 c. 37, s. 32(7); S.I. 1998/2327, art. 2(1)(g)


6 Limitation. (E+W)

In section 11 of the M1 Limitation Act 1980 (special time limit for actions in respect of personal injuries) , after subsection (1) there is inserted—

“(1A) This section does not apply to any action brought for damages under section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.”
Annotations:

Marginal Citations

M1 1980 c. 58.


7 Interpretation of this group of sections. (E+W)

(1) This section applies for the interpretation of sections 1 to 5.

(2) References to harassing a person include alarming the person or causing the person distress.

[F9 (3) A “course of conduct” must involve—

(a) in the case of conduct in relation to a single person (see section 1(1) ) , conduct on at least two occasions in relation to that person, or
(b) in the case of conduct in relation to two or more persons (see section 1(1A) ) , conduct on at least one occasion in relation to each of those persons.]
[F10 (3A) A person’s conduct on any occasion shall be taken, if aided, abetted, counselled or procured by another—

(a) to be conduct on that occasion of the other (as well as conduct of the person whose conduct it is) ; and
(b) to be conduct in relation to which the other’s knowledge and purpose, and what he ought to have known, are the same as they were in relation to what was contemplated or reasonably foreseeable at the time of the aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring.]
(4) “Conduct” includes speech.

[F11 (5) References to a person, in the context of the harassment of a person, are references to a person who is an individual.]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F9 S. 7(3) substituted (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(7)(a), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)

F10 S. 7(3A) inserted (1.8.2001) by 2001 c. 16, s. 44(1)(2); S.I. 2001/2223, art. 3(b)

F11 S. 7(5) added (1.7.2005) by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (c. 15), ss. 125(7)(b), 178(8); S.I. 2005/1521, art. 3(1)(m)


Scotland (S)


8 Harassment. (S)

(1) Every individual has a right to be free from harassment and, accordingly, a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and—

(a) is intended to amount to harassment of that person; or
(b) occurs in circumstances where it would appear to a reasonable person that it would amount to harassment of that person.
(2) An actual or apprehended breach of subsection (1) may be the subject of a claim in civil proceedings by the person who is or may be the victim of the course of conduct in question; and any such claim shall be known as an action of harassment.

(3) For the purposes of this section— “conduct” includes speech; “harassment” of a person includes causing the person alarm or distress; and

a course of conduct must involve conduct on at least two occasions.
(4) It shall be a defence to any action of harassment to show that the course of conduct complained of—

(a) was authorised by, under or by virtue of any enactment or rule of law;
(b) was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime; or
(c) was, in the particular circumstances, reasonable.
(5) In an action of harassment the court may, without prejudice to any other remedies which it may grant—

(a) award damages;
(b) grant—
(i) interdict or interim interdict;
(ii) if it is satisfied that it is appropriate for it to do so in order to protect the person from further harassment, an order, to be known as a “non-harassment order”, requiring the defender to refrain from such conduct in relation to the pursuer as may be specified in the order for such period (which includes an indeterminate period) as may be so specified,
but a person may not be subjected to the same prohibitions in an interdict or interim interdict and a non-harassment order at the same time.
(6) The damages which may be awarded in an action of harassment include damages for any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from it.

(7) Without prejudice to any right to seek review of any interlocutor, a person against whom a non-harassment order has been made, or the person for whose protection the order was made, may apply to the court by which the order was made for revocation of or a variation of the order and, on any such application, the court may revoke the order or vary it in such manner as it considers appropriate.

(8) In section 10(1) of the M2 Damages (Scotland) Act 1976 (interpretation) , in the definition of “personal injuries”, after “to reputation” there is inserted “ , or injury resulting from harassment actionable under section 8 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 ”.

Annotations:

Marginal Citations

M2 1976 c.13.


9 Breach of non-harassment order. (S)

(1) Any person who is F12 ... in breach of a non-harassment order made under section 8 is guilty of an offence and liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine, or to both such imprisonment and such fine; and
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both such imprisonment and such fine.
(2) A breach of a non-harassment order shall not be punishable other than in accordance with subsection (1).

[F13 (3) A constable may arrest without warrant any person he reasonably believes is committing or has committed an offence under subsection (1).

(4) Subsection (3) is without prejudice to any power of arrest conferred by law apart from that subsection.]

Annotations:

Amendments (Textual)

F12 Words in s. 9(1) repealed (27.6.2003) by Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (asp 7), ss. 49(2)(a), 89(2); S.S.I. 2003/288, art. 2, Sch.

F13 S. 9(3) - S. 9(4) inserted (27.6.2003) by Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (asp 7), ss. 49(2)(b), 89(2); S.S.I. 2003/288, art. 2, Sch.


10 Limitation. (S)

(1) After section 18A of the M3 Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 there is inserted the following section—

“18B Actions of harassment.
(1) This section applies to actions of harassment (within the meaning of section 8 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997) which include a claim for damages.
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below and to section 19A of this Act, no action to which this section applies shall be brought unless it is commenced within a period of 3 years after—
(a) the date on which the alleged harassment ceased; or
(b) the date, (if later than the date mentioned in paragraph (a) above) on which the pursuer in the action became, or on which, in the opinion of the court, it would have been reasonably practicable for him in all the circumstances to have become, aware, that the defender was a person responsible for the alleged harassment or the employer or principal of such a person.
(3) In the computation of the period specified in subsection (2) above there shall be disregarded any time during which the person who is alleged to have suffered the harassment was under legal disability by reason of nonage or unsoundness of mind.”.
(2) In subsection (1) of section 19A of that Act (power of court to override time-limits) , for “section 17 or section 18 and section 18A” there is substituted “ section 17, 18, 18A or 18B ”.

Annotations:

Marginal Citations

M3 1973 c.52.


General (E+W+S+N.I.)