Taking action about harassment
If you’ve been the victim of abusive or threatening behaviour by someone near your home or when you're out and about it may be harassment. There are different things you can do if you’re being harassed.
Read this page to find out more about what you can do if you’re being harassed.
What is harassment?
Harassment is when someone behaves in a way which makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened. It could be someone you know, like a neighbour or people from you local area or it could be a stranger - for example, someone on the bus.
Examples of harassment include:
- unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits
- abuse and bullying online
- verbal abuse and threats
- smashing windows or using dogs to frighten you.
Contact the police
If you’re being harassed and you feel you're in danger you can contact the police.
If you think you’re being harassed because of your disability, race, religion, transgender identity or sexual orientation, you can report the harassment to the police as a hate incident or crime.
You can find details of your local police station on the Police.UK website.
Take action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Harassment is both a criminal offence and a civil action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
This means that someone can be prosecuted in the criminal courts if they harass you. It also means you can take action against the person in the civil courts.
When is something harassment under the Act?
Generally speaking harassment is behaviour which causes you distress or alarm.
The Act also says you must have experienced at least two incidents by the same person or group of people for it to be harassment.
It's the courts that decide if something is harassment under the Act. The courts will look at whether most people or a reasonable person would think the behaviour amounts to harassment.
When can you take civil court action about harassment?
If you’ve been the victim of harassment you can take action in the civil courts against the person harassing you.
You need to make your claim within six years of when the harassment happened.
You can still take civil court action even if the person harassing you hasn’t been found guilty of a criminal offence.
What can the court do if you take civil action about harassment?
The court can make an order or injunction that the person harassing you must stop their behaviour. If they don’t stop harassing you after the court has made an injunction against them, it's a criminal offence and they can be prosecuted in the criminal courts.
You can also ask the court for compensation if you’ve suffered financial or emotional loss - for example, if the harassment has made you feel very anxious or distressed.
If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice local office. Find your nearest Citizens Advice.
Harassment by a landlord
If a landlord harasses you this could be a criminal offence under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
When is it harassment by a landlord?
The criminal offence of harassment is when your landlord, or anyone acting on their behalf - for example, an estate agent - does something deliberately that interferes with the enjoyment of your home and is intended to make you leave, or take away your rights.
Examples of harassment include:
- interfering with or cutting off services, like water, gas or electricity
- visiting your home regularly without warning, especially at night
- using threatening behaviour or being physically violent
What can you do about it?
If you’ve experienced this kind of harassment you can contact your local authority and they can take action against your landlord. You can also can contact the police.
If you’re harassed by your landlord you may need advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice local office.
Harassment by creditors
If you owe money to a creditor and stop making payments, they can take action against you to get their money back. A creditor is someone you owe money to.
Some types of behaviour by a creditor when they try to recover money from you are not acceptable and could be harassment.
If you feel you're being harassed by a creditor, there are several things you can do to stop them doing it.
Harassment on the internet or in chat rooms
Harassment on the internet and in chat rooms is also known as cyber bullying.
If you’re being harassed on the internet you should try to stop that person from contacting you, for example by 'blocking' them in a chatroom or on a social network.
If something makes you uncomfortable on a social network, you can also click the 'report' button.
Try to get evidence of the bullying by making copies of any threatening online conversations, for example by saving emails or taking screen shots.
If blocking somebody doesn't stop the bullying, you can report it to the police or contact your internet service provider. You can show them any evidence you've managed to collect to help them investigate the situation.
The charity Bullying UK have lots of advice fact sheets about different types of cyber bullying, if you need more information.
Have you been discriminated against?
If the reason you’re being harassed is because of who you are - for example, because you’re Black, gay or disabled, it could be unlawful discrimination. If you’ve been discriminated against, you can take action under the Equality Act 2010.