The Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997 prohibits the act of harassment, stating that a person shall not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another and which the perpetrator knows or ought to know will cause the victim harassment (which includes alarming the person or causing them distress). The legislation also provides for the offence of ‘putting people in fear of violence’ when a person’s course of conduct causes another to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him. The person shall be guilty of an offence if he knows or ought to know that this course of conduct will cause the other so to fear on each of those occasions.
What is Stalking?
There is no legal definition of stalking. However, it is generally accepted that it includes repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and/or contacts on another in a manner that could be expected to cause distress and/or fear in any reasonable person.
Taken in isolation behaviours might seem unremarkable, but in the particular circumstances and with repetition, they take on a more sinister meaning. Unwanted communications may include telephone calls, letter, emails faxes, sms text messages, sending or leaving unsolicited material/gifts, graffiti, and/or messages on social networking sites.
Unwanted intrusions include the following: waiting for, spying on, approaching, accosting and going to a person’s home. In addition to the communication and intrusion, the stalker may engage in a number of associated behaviours including ordering or cancelling goods/services, making unwarranted complaints (to legitimate bodies), threats, property damage and violence.
Stalkers frequently threaten their victims, either directly or indirectly. Examples of indirect threats include sending wreaths or violent images to the victim (often anonymously). Stalkers will often make specific written or verbal threats and have been known to threaten violence months or even years into the future, and have indeed followed through on their threats.