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48.A civil claim for damages and / or an injunction may be brought in relation to conduct that amounts to harassment as defined by the Act93.  Damages may be awarded for, among other things, anxiety caused by the harassment94.  Thus, importantly, if the statutory ingredients of the unlawful conduct are shown, a claim may be brought for compensation even if the claimant has suffered no psychiatric loss or other “damage” in the conventional sense.  

49.The defendant will have a defence if he can show that the course of conduct was pursued:  for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime; under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any requirement imposed by any person under any enactment; or  was reasonable in the particular circumstances95.

50.The Courts have discouraged the suggestion that any common law tort of harassment exists, which goes beyond the scope of the legislation96.  As Lord Hoffman commented in Wainwright v Home Office (above):

“The requirement of a course of conduct [in the PHA] shows that Parliament was conscious that it might not be in the public interest to allow the law to be set in motion for one boorish incident.  It may be that any development of the common law should show similar caution”.

Intentionally Causing Nervous Shock

51.In Wilkinson v Downton97, the claimant was falsely informed that her husband has been badly injured in a road accident.  This produced a violent shock in her, causing her serious and permanent physical consequences.  The defendant had not wanted to harm the claimant, rather he had desired to play a rather unpleasant “joke” upon her.  However, the trial judge reasoned that as such a statement would produce grave effects on all but an exceptional person, the defendant must be taken to have intended to produce those effects in the claimant.  Accordingly, such an intention would be imputed to him and his conduct regarded as calculated to cause harm to the claimant.  Wilkinson v Downton was followed in Janvier v

93 Section 3(1).

94 Section 3(2).

95 Section 1(3).

96 Hunter v Canary Wharf Ltd [1997] AC 655 HL, Wong v Parkside Health NHS Trust [2003] 3 All ER 932 CA.

97 [1897[ 2 QB 57.

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