Reference:  EWHC 2901 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Tugendhat J
Date of judgment: 8 Dec 2004
Summary: Harassment - Injunction - s.3 Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - Standard of proof - "Course of conduct" - Nexus between acts
Instructing Solicitors: Solomon Levy for the Claimants; Giffin Couch & Archer for the Defendant.
Two members of the Hipgrave family (the Hs) had been involved in an ongoing dispute with Jones (J). J alleged that the Hs had shouted abuse at her on numerous occasions, and had threatened her with violence, including threatening to kill her. She applied for an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, s.3. The trial judge made the injunction requested, applying the civil standard of proof in finding some of the allegations proved. The Hs appealed, contending that the criminal standard of proof ought to have been applied, as it was in relation to “anti-social behaviour” under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. One of the Hs also contended that her acts were insufficiently connected to constitute a “course of conduct”.
(1) What standard of proof required for an injunction under s.3 Protection from Harassment Act 1997; (2) What form of nexus between acts was necessary to constitute a “course of conduct” under the Act.
Dismissing the appeal: (1) The civil standard was appropriate for injunctions under the 1997 Act. Although the definition of “harassment” in the Act was very similar to that of “anti-social behaviour” in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, they were not the same. A key difference was that the injunction was a private remedy sought by an individual, not a public authority. The criminal standard was ill-suited to determining disputes involving conflicts between the human rights of the parties, as was usually the case under the 1997 Act: it sought to protect the rights of individuals, rather than restraining individuals for the benefit of the community as was the purpose of the 1998 Act. (2) The words “course of conduct” were ordinary words for a tribunal to interpret. The fact that the incidents here were unplanned and spontaneous did not preclude the finding that they constituted a course of conduct.
Media lawyers need to keep an eye on the development of the general law under the Protection from Harassment Act. As <A
href=”https://www.5rb.com/5rb/casereports/detail_redirect.asp?case=149″ target=_parent>Thomas v News Group Newspapers  EMLR 78 shows, the media are not immune from its provisions.