Friday, 18 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages
I wish to come back in on the issue of persistence. Removing the word "persistence" does not mean the offence only applies to once-off events. Rather, it allows us to begin to account for sporadic communication.In my experience, both my own experience and in supporting other women, sometimes abusive communication and harassment can be seasonal, for want of a better term. It can happen for a period of a few weeks on two or three occasions a year, and it heightens, then drops off and then heightens again.
Currently, the person has to produce hard evidence of continued and persistent phone calls over a period of time. The word “persistence” sets the bar way too high. I do not think simply amending the 1997 Act achieves any sort of protection for people experiencing harassment. It is probably too old-school in terms of understanding how harassment is actually carried out. In my own experience over the last five years, the communication I have received has been concentrated in particular parts of the year, and then it goes away. It does not meet the current requirement for harassment and I would have to take a private injunction. I might be in a position now to have colleagues who work in the legal profession pursue that, or I might be able to pay for it. However, if it does not reach the level of “persistent” in the terms set out here, and if a person cannot pay to have a private injunction, that person will not be protected under the current harassment definitions within this legislation.