Harassment Act 1997 (PHA). The Act was brought in predominantly to provide criminal and civil liabilities for stalking. However, as the Courts have acknowledged the language of the statute covers a much wider scope of activity86.
46.Section 1 of the 1997 Act provides:
“(1)A person must not pursue a course of conduct –
which amounts to harassment of another; and
which he knows or ought to know amount to harassment of the other.87
(2)For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that 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.”
“Harassment” is not defined in the Act, although it states that references to harassing a person “include alarming the person or causing the person distress”88. In Thomas v News Group Newspapers Limited (above) the Court of Appeal said that “harassment” was a word that described conduct targeted at an individual which was calculated to produce the consequences described in section 7 and which was oppressive and unreasonable. The Act does make clear that “conduct” includes speech89. The claimant has to show that the defendant knew or ought to have known that it amounted to harassment.
47.The claimant also has to show that there was a “course of conduct”. This must involve conduct on at least two occasions90. A defendant may be sued under the PHA on the basis of vicarious liability91. However, where the defendant is sued on the basis of vicarious liability, it must be shown that the same person was responsible for the acts said to constitute the course of conduct or, if different people were involved, that they acted pursuant to a common purpose in what could be called a joint venture92
86 For example the publication of arguably racist press articles concerning the claimant in Thomas v News Group Newspapers Ltd.  EMLR 4 CA.
88 Section 7(2) PHA.
89 Section 7(4).
90 Section 7(3).
91 Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust  3 WLR 125 HL.
92 Daniels v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 1622 (QB).