So you’re being continually victimised and bullied by someone that you had a falling out with but their conduct seems to fall just short of a criminal act. What can you do?
The Protection from Harassment Act (“the Act”) allows victims of harassment to obtain a protection order (which serves as a court order) which interdicts the offenders from continuing the wrongdoing. Should the wrongdoer continue to harass the victim after the protection order is obtained, he/she may face criminal prosecution.
The harassment applications may be brought by the person who is experiencing the harassment, a member of their family or household, or any other person who is aware of the situation. The court order may be granted against the wrongdoer and may extend to his/her affiliates as sometimes harassment may occur indirectly. This is explained in more detail below.
The types of harassment recognised by the Act include mental, psychological, physical or economic harm. This includes unreasonably following and watching the victim.
Once an interim or final protection order is made, the person accused of harassment may not contact the alleged victim at all either verbally, by email or by any other medium.
In terms of the “indirect” contact, this means that the person accused may also not have a friend or family member contact the alleged victim either. Whilst it can be particularly difficult for some parties to refrain from contact, specifically in matters between tenant and landlord, employer and employee for example, it is absolutely necessary that the provisions of the order be obeyed. Any breach of the court order may result in the offending party being arrested.
As we live in a society with a high prevalence of violence and crime, the courts must have regard for any application that comes across their desk. It should however be noted that those who lodge frivolous or vexatious applications will also be dealt with by the same might of the Courts.
It seems, based on the influx of instructions to our offices regarding harassment, that this issue is on the up and we would advise any party to the application (whether you are the applicant or respondent) to seek legal advice before proceeding. This is important as we have seen innocent bystanders become victims of the abuse of this process. Alternatively, the person being harassed is too scared to institute proceedings for the fear of what might happen. Get a competent lawyer in your corner and you won’t be sorry.
For more information or assistance on these matters please feel free to contact our offices on firstname.lastname@example.org or 011 897 1900.
Article contributed by Kenny Smith and Diane Charles.