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Date produced: 11 March 2013

Title: Offences against the person

Offence: Harassment

Legislation: Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Section 4 - harassment

Mode of Trial: Either Way

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 5 years imprisonment

Sentencing Range: Specified violent offence

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

There is neither definitive guideline nor guideline case for harassment.

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

R v Liddle and Hayes [2000] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 131
This case is no longer a guideline case.  Perhaps its main significance now is the fact that in R v McDermott and Melaney [2009] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 110 the Court of Appeal highlighted three factors indentified in the judgement in R v Liddle and Hayes.  "First, the seriousness of the conduct which can range from actual violence to threatening letters. Secondly, whether the conduct was solitary or persistent. Thirdly, its effect upon the victim."

R. v Miah [2000] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 439
Appellant harassed a schoolgirl with whom he wanted a relationship.  Incidents of threatening her with a knife, punching and kicking her causing bruising, and abusing her at her place of work.  Convicted.  The Court observed that it is the persistence and impact upon the victim to which regard should be paid.  It is proper to regard the sentence and a restraining order as complementary provisions rather than ones that are at odds with the other.  Held that when considering whether a short sharp shock would be appropriate, a judge is bound to have regard to the chances of the defendant returning to orderly behaviour upon release.  The judge should assess what punishment and length of sentence is most likely to lead to the defendant behaving and not breaching the restraining order.  Sentence reduced to 18 months imprisonment for harassment, with six months concurrent for witness intimidation and restraining order unaltered.

R. v Sutton [2001] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 91
Appellant pleaded guilty to harassment. He had helped an elderly man for some years prior to his death.  Subsequently the appellant made a number of telephone calls to a relative of the deceased and sent a funeral brochure and brochures of memorial headstones. He subsequently made two further phone calls in which sums of money were demanded and threats were made. The appellant eventually admitted making the calls.  Sentence reduced to 12 months imprisonment, with the restraining order for five years remaining. 

R. v Nagy [2010] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 74
Guilty plea to section 4 harassment.  Appellant had formerly been in a relationship with the victim for some years and there were two children of the relationship.  At about 1 am when they were asleep in her house, he banged on the front door, shouted abuse, was let in and soon left.  He returned a few moments later, banged on the door, shouted abuse, and threatened to throw a brick through the window if she did not let him in.  She telephoned the police. He entered and locked the door from the inside. Police officers arrived, but the victim said that she did not wish to pursue the matter.  The police remained in the area, he entered the living room carrying a knife in one hand and a bottle in the other. He abused her, threw beer over her, spat in her face, pushed her down, slapped her, threatened her with the bottle, dragged her and stabbed the television. The police returned and arrested him.  Sentence of 12 months' imprisonment upheld.

R v Gardner [2010] EWCA Crim 2154
Appellant, with previous convictions for harassment of the same victim(s), persistently threatened a woman and her family next door.  Convicted after trial.  Sentence reduced to two years, on the ground that he had sold his house and would move away.

R v Scott [2011] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 37       
Appellant made a series of 8 telephone calls over a period of 3 weeks to the victim at her home and her place of work.  He told her that she had been filmed over a period of weeks and that they had made a lot of money out of her; that if she did not comply she would be shipped in a crate and would not see her family again; that she would be leaving her home in just under a week.  Guilty plea on day of trial led to Court of Appeal to observe that a 10% discount could not have been criticised.  Very long term effects on the victim and previous conviction years previously with serious and disturbingly similar features were substantial aggravating factors.  Sentence of 3 years imprisonment upheld.     

Recent Decisions reported in Current Sentencing Practice at B 3-6.3A and at B 3-6.3C

Restraining Orders

Restraining orders on conviction


  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 section 5 
  • Archbold at 19-277f

Restraining orders on acquittal


  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997 section 5A
  • Archbold at 19-277fa 
  • R v Major [2011[1 Cr.App.R. 74

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