Local authorities have a responsibility to take immediate enforcement action to protect those who are being harassed or intimidated.
This may be through an injunction or an interim ASBO (which may be obtained without notice to the defendant in Scotland and Northern Ireland) or a Community Protection Notice (in England and Wales) and can provide immediate relief and raise confidence in the ability of local agencies to tackle this sort of anti-social behaviour.
It can cover a wide range of conduct and behaviours, including racial or religious motivated harassment, and could also be used to prosecute certain types of anti-social behaviour where these amount to 'harassment', such as playing loud music, barking dogs or noisy house repairs.
In England and Wales, it is an also offence to cause harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act 1986.
Where there is persistent misuse of the telephone network, they can be made to pay compensation to the victim and fined an amount OFCOM deems to be appropriate, up to £2,000,000. where the malicious calls are one element of a wider charge, such as breach of an injunction, where there have been threats to kill etc.) the defendant could be held in contempt of court or charged with grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act.
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This carries a £1,000 fine or a penalty notice of £80.
If the offence is committed with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, the offender can be given 6 months' imprisonment or a fine. S1 (1) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Article 3(1) of the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 state: A person must not pursue a course of conduct: Harassment is defined as causing alarm or causing distress, and a course of conduct which can include speech must involve conduct on at least 2 occasions.
Because these court orders are made in civil proceedings, hearsay evidence can be used to protect victims who are too scared to come to court.
Where action is taken in a county court in Scotland and Northern Ireland, an ASBO can be made against a party to the main proceedings or another adult whose conduct is material to the proceedings.
In England and Wales a Criminal Behaviour Order may be obtained where an offender has been convicted of an offence and has engaged, or is likely to engage, in conduct likely to cause harassment, distress or alarm to others and the order is likely to prevent this in the future.
Criminal harassment in Northern Ireland carries the following maximum sentences: In addition to the criminal sanction, a civil court (county court or high court) can also impose civil injunctions in harassment cases as well as awarding damages to the victim for the harassment.
The PHA makes a breach of such an injunction a criminal offence, which is: This is unusual, as the normal sanction for breach of the terms of an injunction is contempt of court proceedings in the civil court that ordered the original injunction.