The police, Crown prosecution and Courts take a robust stance on domestic violence that has occurred between people who are in a relationship or have been in a relationship. It is important that you receive advice if you are being investigated or have been charged with such an offence.
There is a new offence of Coercive and Controlling behaviour (s76 Serious Crime Act 2015) in an intimate or family relationship. Allegations of this sort are easy to make and can be made by partners to gain an advantage in family proceedings.
Harassment, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, is very broadly defined and can involve a range of conduct.
The law states that a person must not pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another, and which he or she knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other (s2).
In order to constitute a ‘course of conduct’, there would need to be at least two occasions of harassing behaviour. This may be difficult to prove where they occur far apart, or are trivial in nature.
If the allegation involves putting someone in fear of violence (s4), this may constitute a more serious offence, which can be heard in the Crown Court.
Stalking, is now a specific offence (s2A/s4A). Examples of how the offence can be committed include: following a person, contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means, publishing material relating or purporting to relate to a person, monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, loitering in any place (whether public or private); interfering with any property in the possession of a person and watching or spying on a person.
The Stalking Protection Act 2019 introduces Stalking Protection Orders that the police can apply for.
We have extensive experience in defending harassment and stalking allegations. We also understand that allegations are sometimes made after the breakdown of a relationship, in order for one party to gain an advantage in family court proceedings – for example those involving access to children.