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It can cover a wide range of conduct and behaviours, including racial or religious motivated harassment, and could also be used to prosecute certain types of anti-social behaviour where these amount to 'harassment', such as playing loud music, barking dogs or noisy house repairs.In England and Wales, it is an also offence to cause harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act 1986.Local authorities have a responsibility to take immediate enforcement action to protect those who are being harassed or intimidated.This may be through an injunction or an interim ASBO (which may be obtained without notice to the defendant in Scotland and Northern Ireland) or a Community Protection Notice (in England and Wales) and can provide immediate relief and raise confidence in the ability of local agencies to tackle this sort of anti-social behaviour.
If the offence is committed with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, the offender can be given 6 months' imprisonment or a fine. S1 (1) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Article 3(1) of the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 state: A person must not pursue a course of conduct: Harassment is defined as causing alarm or causing distress, and a course of conduct which can include speech must involve conduct on at least 2 occasions.
Injunctions may be made under Housing Act or Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 provisions, where the harassment or intimidation is housing-related, or under section 222 Local Government Act 1972 or Article 116 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, which enables local authorities to take court action to promote or protect the interests of the inhabitants of their area.
Eviction of the perpetrator is another option, moving the individual away from those whom they are intimidating or harassing.
It is important that this is accompanied by other action, such as an injunction, to ensure that the behaviour does not reoccur in a new area, or that the perpetrator does not return to the area to intimidate those who assisted the eviction action.
Intimidation or harassment may constitute a criminal offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in England & Wales or the Protection from Harassment (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 in Northern Ireland (collectively referred to as ' PHA').