QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
B e f o r e :
MR JUSTICE FORBES
|KEVIN MALCOLM PRATT|
|DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS|
Smith Bernal Reporting Limited
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MR J CAUSER (instructed by CPS Berkshire Branch Office, Eaton Court, 112 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7LL) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.
Crown Copyright ©
"1(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct -
(a) which amounts to harassment of another; and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.
2(1) A person who pursues a course of conduct in breach of section (1) is guilty of an offence...
7(2) References to harassing a person include alarming the person or causing the person distress.
(3) A 'course of conduct' must involve conduct on at least two occasions.
(4) 'conduct' includes speech..."
"The Act describes itself as one 'to make provision for protecting persons from harassment and similar conduct'. It was passed for the purpose of dealing with the phenomenon of 'stalking'. There is, however, no attempt at a definition of harassment, although section 7(2) provides that references to harassing a person include alarming the person or causing the person distress. It is obvious, therefore, that the Act may be used to prosecute a range of persons apart from those commonly referred to as 'stalkers'."
"It is to be borne in mind that the state of affairs which was relied upon by the prosecution was miles away from the 'stalking' type of offence for which the 1997 Act was intended. That is not to say that it is never appropriate so to charge a person who is making a nuisance of himself to his partner or wife when they have become estranged. However, in a situation such as this, when they were frequently coming back together and intercourse was taking place (apparently a video was taken of them having intercourse) it is unrealistic to think that this fell within the stalking category which either postulates a stranger or an estranged spouse. That was not the situation when the course of conduct relied upon was committed."
"As it seems to me the root question on which the magistrate ought to have concentrated is whether or not, bearing in mind that he only found two of the incidents proved, separated as they were by some 4 months (one being a slap of the complainant and the other being a threat directed at the complainant's boyfriend in her presence) and in the absence of any other relevant finding, that can reasonably be described 'as a course of conduct' by the defendant. If that had been the question posed to us, for my part I would have answered it in the negative.
I fully accept that the incidents which need to be proved in relation to harassment need not exceed two incidents, but, as it seems to me, the fewer the occasions and the wider they are spread the less likely it would be that a finding of harassment can reasonably be made. One can conceive of circumstances where incidents, as far apart as a year, could constitute a course of conduct and harassment. In argument Mr Laddie put the context of racial harassment taking place outside a synagogue on a religious holiday, such as the day of atonement, and being repeated each year as the day of atonement came round. Another example might be a threat to do something once a year on a person's birthday. None the less the broad position must be that if one is left with only two incidents you have to see whether what happened on those two occasions can be described as a course of conduct."