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What is classed as harrassment?

(11 Posts)
chilllydaytoday Wed 28-Nov-12 11:05:10

I am a regular poster but have namechanged for this.

My DP has been divorced for nearly 7 years. He has 4 kids aged 9 - 16, I have been with him for just over 4 years, living together for 2 years. Him and his ex have always had a difficult relationship. 1 child lives with us full time, 2 others live with us 1/3 of the time and the other child is not having contact with DP at the moment.

His ex is now saying she is going to take him to court for harrassment and obviously we are slightly concerned by this.

She has alleged harrassment a number of times, the first being when DP dropped the kids off one sunday night as was normal then, the kids had school bags with them and DP was carrying one of them, he leaned across her doorway to put the bag in her porch, she tried to slam the door on him and he instinctively put his hand up to stop the door slamming in his face. She went to the police and accused him of assault and trying to break in to her property.

He used to phone his kids each evening when they weren't with him and used his mobile to phone the house phone. He mistakenly made a "pocket" phone call to her house phone the next morning (the last number he phoned) and she had her house phone number changed and went to the police again alleging harrassment and sexual abuse.

When he was having terrible behavioural issues with their DS, he called her mobile phone as he was genuinly worried about his son, she screamed at him and told him to never phone her again. She went to the police again because he had got the number from one of their kids and she hadn't authorised him to have it.

She refuses to do any of the pick ups/drop offs for the children including the child she wants contact with who lives with us. She organises activities for the children in our time meaning that instead of picking the kids up from school or taking them directly to school, they end up having to go back to her house (we both work and have arranged with our employers to pick up and take to school only). Wherever possible we will pick up / drop off kids at clubs / work directly but this isn't always possible and ex will try and insist that DP pick them up from a road 3 streets away and then will dictate a time that we can't always do because of work. She won't allow DP on her property and tries to insist he is not allowed in her road or even on her estate.

She will only communicate by e-mail but 95% ignores the correspondence that DP sends to her. He is always polite and asks her opinion, but if she does reply she just rants at him and orders him about.

We started using a contact book (at the suggestion of the courts) but she refused to answer anything in the book. We asked her back at the beginning of October what is happening with regards to contact for Christmas (as like everyone else, we want to make plans). DP has asked her 3 times but no response. My fear is that the asking 3 times is going to be seen as harrassment but if she wont' reply to something that we need to know, then it almost puts DP in a position where he does start to pester her and I do wonder if she is doing it on purpose to justify herself.

I have thought for a while now that she wants an injunction to stop DP going near her property, we have to go through her village if we want to go out anywhere so I don't see how she can ban him from her village but what rights does she have here and what rights does DP have to defend himself?

Collaborate Wed 28-Nov-12 13:32:00

Deal with it if/when it comes. Many times empty threats of this type are made.

chilllydaytoday Wed 28-Nov-12 13:36:26

She's been advised by CAFCASS to do this.

Collaborate Wed 28-Nov-12 14:02:30

Still doesn't mean she'll get legal aid for it, or that you can't challenge her account if it does get to court.

redbaronski Wed 28-Nov-12 23:35:30

My ex used to send me up to 23 emails a day. At one point, he started sending me text messages with unpleasant sexual content; around the same time he and his girlfriend sat outside my home every week day morning for three months from 7.30-8.40 in the morning. He tried to force his way into my home when I was several months pregnant.

I eventually spoke to the police after he shouted at me in a cafe in front of our children, and when they heard the background above they told me it sounded like I was being harassed. The police officer (dv specialist) assigned to the case decided this was not what was happening. Apparently this was because the content of the emails was not specifically threatening (i.e. no mention was made of wanting to beat me up or cause me harm), and I was told the sexual content of the text messages was no more than 'a bit embarrassing' for me.

The police need pretty solid evidence of harassment and if the emails relate only to arrangements about the children and are reasonable and polite in tone, there is no reason they will be considered harassment. Similarly putting his arm in the door sounds reasonable. I think harassment is a criminal charge and if so, your ex would first hear about things from the police, but he would have a chance to put his side of things across and only if there is concrete evidence of anything would the police consider warning him.

EldritchCleavage Thu 29-Nov-12 13:00:22

Harassment means a course of conduct (more than 2 occasions) of a harassing nature (not defined in the Act, deliberately) but effectively something that would distress, annoy etc and that any reasonable person would understand would be distressing/annoying etc. It can be a criminal offence or a civil case, but even in civil cases the conduct in question has to be sufficiently serious that it would attract criminal liability.

It isn't harassment if you have reasonable grounds for acting as you do. The need to sort of contact is, for most of the things you list, going to be reasonable grounds. Of course, your DH will keep asking about Xmas until his ex answers. Repeated requests in those circumstances aren't harassment.

See the CPS website for their guidelines on what they prosecute: here.

Make sure you keep the emails you send and any replies. Keep your own log of calls/events/contacts so that if it comes to anything, police or the court will have a full picture.

And try not to worry. Despite some scare stories, people are not generally prosecuted or sued for harassment over trivialities. It has to be serious in order for any prosecution or civil case to get off the ground. Sounds as though ex thinks it is a handy threat, but the police may well see her as the boy who cried wolf.

chilllydaytoday Thu 29-Nov-12 13:39:35

Thank you for your replies. Redbaronski, I feel reassured, but sorry for you that the bad time you had couldn't be classed as harrassment.

I will make sure that DP keeps a record of all contact from now on.

Someone told me that there is a time limit on someone bringing a case to court, so for example, if she alleges something 5 years ago and something 3 years ago, would a court be interested? I suspect she will try and use the door thing, which was years ago.

EldritchCleavage Thu 29-Nov-12 13:56:31

Redbaronski, I think that police officer gave you very bad advice. Your ex was harassing you, and if you'd been able to being a civil case on that evidence, you'd have succeeded in getting an injunction. Harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 does not need to be explicitly threatening or intended to distress.

And yes, isolated incidents 3 or 5 years ago are unlikely to be considered by the courts as relevant.

redbaronski Tue 04-Dec-12 10:40:22

chillydaytoday, glad to be of some reassurance! It does sounds as if it's being used as a threat.

Collaborate Tue 04-Dec-12 11:11:43

I agree with Eldritch

Leithlurker Tue 04-Dec-12 11:29:03

The real problem here is that you are in effect going to have to live with this hanging over you all the time you have any need for contact with this woman. As you have said she has been to the police several times before and ail probably do so again. This is a direct result that the idea of claiming harassment is down to the victim to say that they "feel" harassed. This is in principle and generally a good thing but as you have experienced can be abused by people with an agenda of their own.

The only way to deal with this is to go and set out a legal framework including her being responsible for drop off and pick ups as this sounds like a deliberate attempt to disadvantage you. All the stuff about restraining orders or other threats will need to go before a court, you will both have a chance to have your say.

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