The law says that a person must not cause another person to feel harassed, nor should anybody behave in a way that would amount to harassment of another person. If somebody breaks this law and is harassing you, you can apply to the Sheriff Court for a Non-Harassment Order to prevent them from behaving in this way.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you may be able to obtain a Non-Harassment Order against your partner (or ex-partner). The granting of such an order would mean that they would no longer be allowed to carry out the behaviour specified in the order.
In some certain circumstances this type of behaviour can also amount to a criminal offence.
A Non-Harassment Order is a formal court order granted by your local Sheriff Court to protect you from any behaviour by another person that causes you, or is intended to cause you, harassment. For example, this could be verbal abuse, persistent communication with you by any means, or attending at your property without your permission.
You can apply for such an order over a partner, ex-partner, neighbour or any other person who is harassing you. The behaviour must have taken place on at least two separate occasions for you to be able to apply for an order.
The granting of a Non-Harassment Order by the Sheriff will essentially mean that the person involved will no longer be allowed to behave in the way that was making you feel harassed or scared. If they continue to harass you after the order has been granted by the court, they will be committing a criminal offence and will be liable to receive a punishment from the court.
A Non-Harassment Order can protect you from another person who is behaving in a way intended to cause you fear, alarm or distress. Under the order the behaviour will be banned by the Sheriff Court and if the person continues behaving that way, they will be liable to punishment by the court.
The behaviour that can be covered by a Non-Harassment Order includes behaviour that is already illegal and also behaviour that is not technically unlawful or violent but that makes you feel harassed. For example, you may be able to apply for a Non-Harassment Order to prevent your partner, or any other person telephoning you or repeatedly contacting you by text message or social media following a difficult break-up.
If the individual breaches the terms of the Non-Harassment Order, they are committing a criminal offence which can be punished by up to five years in prison and a large fine.
If you have a Non-Harassment Order in place which is breached, it is your responsibility to contact the police without delay. You have to bring the matter to the attention of the police and then it is up to the relevant authorities to enforce the Non-harassment Order at the Sheriff Court. If the individual attends court and denies that the breach has taken place then, in certain circumstances, you might have to go to court to give evidence that the order was breached.
No. An Interdict is a Sheriff Court Order which states that a certain person must not do something and must not approach a certain person or enter a certain location. If the person should breach an Interdict, the police may be in a position to arrest that person if they breach the terms of the Interdict. This is quite separate from a Non-harassment Order. The penalties for breaching a Non-Harassment Order are likely to be far more severe, and accordingly it can often be more difficult to obtain a Non-Harassment Order.
If you wish to apply for a Non-Harassment Order, you will need a Solicitor to help you.
A writ will be lodged in the Sheriff Court detailing all of the circumstances surrounding your case, and explaining to the Sheriff why the behaviour of the person you are complaining about is causing your distress. The Sheriff then has to decide whether it would be reasonable to grant the order that you are requesting. The test the Sheriff applies to the application is whether the person is more likely to continue to harass you than not.
It will also be open to the Sheriff to:
- Grant Interdict as an alternative to a Non-Harassment Order
- Award damages to compensate you for any fear or alarm which you have suffered as a result of the other person’s behaviour, or
- Refuse to grant a Non-Harassment Order if they do not consider that it is justified
- In certain cases you may have to go to court to give evidence, but this is certainly the exception rather than the rule.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse or harassment, talk to a Family Lawyer for advice on the legal steps open to you. Our Family Law Solicitors can advise you on the best option for your circumstances and help you throughout the process from start to finish, including dealing with any court action.
At Thorntons Family Law, we offer an initial free no-obligation chat over the phone to outline your options and the possible costs.
Depending on your case and circumstances, the next step is to come into one of our local offices to meet a Family Law Solicitor about your case and the way forward.
Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.
We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options. In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package. If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails, phone calls and court representations. Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as court costs or payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses.
Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.