Cyberstalking Victim Resources - Anti-Stalking Laws in the UK


In the UK there are various laws in place to tackle the growing problems of stalking and cyberstalking. 
Currently these include:

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997

The original impetus to introduce the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was to deal with the problem of stalking. However, the Act goes much wider than this, covering a range of conduct, including harassment motivated by race or religion, some types of anti-social behaviour, and some forms of protest. 

The legislation creates both criminal and civil remedies. 

There are two criminal offences. One is pursuing a course of conduct amounting to harassment; the other is a more serious offence where the conduct puts the victim in fear of violence. Harassment is defined as causing alarm or causing distress. 

A “course of conduct”, which can include speech, must normally involve conduct on at least two occasions, although there are exceptions to this.

In addition to the criminal sanction, a civil court can also impose civil injunctions in harassment cases as well as awarding damages to the victim for the harassment. Breach of such an injunction is a criminal offence.

The Malicious Communications Act 1988

The Malicious Communications Act 1988 is a British Act of Parliament that makes it illegal in England and Wales to "send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety". It also applies to electronic communications.

The Offences Against the Person Act

The Offences against the Person Act 1861 (24 & 25 Vict c 100) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It consolidated provisions related to offences against the person (an expression which, in particular, includes offences of violence) from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act. For the most part these provisions were, according to the draftsman of the Act,[3] incorporated with little or no variation in their phraseology. It is one of a group of Acts sometimes referred to as the criminal law consolidation Acts 1861. It was passed with the object of simplifying the law. It is essentially a revised version of an earlier consolidation Act, the Offences against the Person Act 1828 (and the equivalent Irish Act), incorporating subsequent statutes.[4]
Although it has been substantially amended, it continues to be the foundation for prosecuting personal injury, short of murder, in the courts of England and Wales.

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c.33) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It introduced a number of changes to the existing law, most notably in the restriction and reduction of existing rights and in greater penalties for certain "anti-social" behaviours. The Bill was introduced by Michael Howard, home secretary of Prime Minister John Major's Conservative government, and attracted widespread opposition.

Criminal Justice Act 2003 
The Criminal Justice Act 2003[1] (c.44) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is a wide ranging measure introduced to modernise many areas of the criminal justice system in England and Wales and, to a lesser extent, in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It amends the law relating to police powers, baildisclosure, allocation of criminal offencesprosecution appeals, autrefois acquit ("double jeopardy"), hearsaybad character evidencesentencing and release on licence. It permits offences to be tried by a judge sitting alone without a jury in cases where there is a danger of jury-tampering. It also expands the circumstances in which defendants can be tried twice for the same offence (double jeopardy), when "new and compelling evidence" is introduced.

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006
The Wireless Telegraphy Acts are laws regulating radio communications in the United Kingdom.
Wireless telegraphy as a concept is defined in British law as "the sending of electro-magnetic energy over paths not provided by a material substance."
The term telegraphy, although best known in relation to the electric telegraph, relates to the sending of messages over long-distances. Wireless telegraphy is differentiated from electrical telegraphy in that the messages are transmitted via electromagnetic means (light or radio) rather than via a physical electrical cable connection.
The guardian of the UK's electromagnetic spectrum is the communications regulator, Ofcom.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (c.23) (RIP or RIPA) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regulating the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and covering the interception of communications. It was ostensibly introduced to take account of technological change such as the growth of the Internet and strong encryption, but is regularly used to oppress British subjects.
RIPA can be invoked by government officials specified in the Act on the grounds of national security, and for the purposes of detecting crime, preventing disorder, public safety, protecting public health, or in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, that is, any grounds can be covered at will under its exceedingly broad scope.

Communications Act 2003, Section 127

The Communications Act 2003 section 127 covers the sending of improper messages. Section 127(1)(a) relates to a message etc that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character and should be used for indecent phone calls and emails. Section 127(2) targets false messages and persistent misuse intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; it includes somebody who persistently makes silent phone calls (usually covered with only one information because the gravamen is one of persistently telephoning rendering separate charges for each call unnecessary).

If a message sent is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or false it is irrelevant whether it was received. The offence is one of sending, so it is committed when the sending takes place. The test for "grossly offensive" was stated by the House of Lords in DPP v Collins [2006] 1 WLR 2223 to be whether the message would cause gross offence to those to whom it relates (in that case ethnic minorities), who need not be the recipients. The case also said that it is justifiable under ECHR Article 10(2) to prosecute somebody who has used the public telecommunications system to leave racist messages.

A person guilty of an offence under section 127 CA 2003 shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine or to both. This offence is part of the fixed penalty scheme.

Section 127 can be used as an alternative offence to such crimes for example as hate crime (including race, religion, disability, homophobic, sexual orientation, and transphobic crime), hacking offences, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, amongst others.

The Equality Act 2010 (c 15) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The primary purpose of the Act is to consolidate the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations, which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain. This was, primarily, the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three majorstatutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or beliefsexual orientation and age. This legislation has the same goals as the four major EU Equal Treatment Directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements.[1] It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. In the case of gender, there are special protections for pregnant women. However the Act allows transsexual people to be barred from gender-specific services if that is "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim". [2] In the case of disability, employers and service providers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplaces to overcome barriers experienced by disabled people. In this regard, the Equality Act 2010 did not change the law. Under s.217, with limited exceptions the Act does not apply to Northern Ireland.

New UK Anti-Stalking Legislation

Groundbreaking new legislation in the UK making stalking a specific crime will come into law later this calendar year. This legislation, called the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 will hopefully enable the UK Criminal Justice System to catch up with other jurisdictions such as the United States, particularly in respect of recognising and prosecuting stalking as a specific crime.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 forms the subject of a separate post which will be published here shortly.

Hate Crimes

Whilst anecdotally it would appear to be an effect rather than a cause of stalking and cyberstalking, elements of each can include targetting of the victim on the basis of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group - whether defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity. This particular form of harassment is defined by law as a Hate Crime.

Hate Crime is defined in Wikipedia as "generally referring to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above [racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity], or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail)". 


The Protection from Harassment Act:

The Malicious Communications Act 1988

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

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