Case Digest (Civil)

Case Digest (Civil)

Unlike criminal proceedings, civil law focuses on the civil standard on the balance of probabilities. Saying something is proven on a balance of probabilities means that it is more likely than not to have occurred. Generally speaking, harassment is behaviour which causes distress or alarm under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Therefore, the cases below give some insight to proceedings contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, a very important legislation in regards to harassment. It is for the courts to decide whether or not something is harassment under the Act. The courts will look at whether a reasonable person would think behaviour which has occurred amounts to unacceptable behaviour.

  • Chief Constable of Surrey v Godfrey, Queen’s Bench Division, 09 June 2017 (unreported)

A former soldier was restrained by final injunction from harassing police officers after he had begun conducting surveillance of them and following them while wearing body armour, a helmet and a respirator.

It was clear that the respondent’s conduct was a course of conduct amounting to harassment against the officers. He had caused them harm and distress. The conduct was serious and justified an injunction. He had the burden of proving that his conduct had been justified under s.1(3).

The court determined that a CPR r.18.1 application by the claimant for disclosure of the identity of the individual who had directed and funded the defendants’ actions should be heard by the trial judge.

  • Madeley v Dzingel Queen’s Bench Division, 03 February 2017 (unreported)

A known figure in the world of online fitness advice could not rely on the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to restrain unauthorised use of her name and photographs on another person’s fitness website and on social media. There was no breach of the 1997 Act; harassment had to be “targeted” personally. The 1997 Act applied to individual cases such as stalking, though that could include references to social media.

  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors v Rushton [2017] EWHC 1205 (QB)

An injunction was granted against a member of a professional body who persistently sent abusive emails and posted allegations online about the body’s employees and agents. The content and quantity of his allegations meant that his conduct crossed the boundary from unpleasant behaviour to harassment.

The appellant was convicted of harassment in the magistrates’ court and sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 24 months. The offence was considered to be serious because of the prolonged nature of the harassment and the impact it had had on the victim.

The fact of previous convictions means that the harassment and threats of violence carry more weight with your victim than they might do if made by somebody without that history of offending.

  • Monarch Airlines Ltd v Yaqab [2016] EWHC 1003 (QB)

A permanent anti-harassment injunction was granted against an airline’s former cabin attendant who had launched a campaign of intimidation against the company’s employees following the failure of his unfair dismissal claim. It became apparent that the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 could be relied upon by a corporate entity.

it was unreasonable for the panel to find that the sexual harassment proved, amounted to gross misconduct

  • Shakil-Ur-Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, Queen’s Bench Division, 02 December 2016 (unreported) 

The claimant sought damages for defamation and harassment from the defendant broadcaster and its chief operating officer. The claimant succeeded in a defamation claim where he had been subjected to a campaign of abuse through broadcasts on UK television. The defamation had caused serious harm to his reputation and he was awarded £185,000 in damages. However, his claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 failed as he had been out of the jurisdiction at the time of the broadcasts.

The appellant is an Ahmadi Muslim and as such is a member of a minority group within Pakistan which is subject to social discrimination, harassment and ill-treatment.

The appellant appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, which accepted his account of what had happened to him in Pakistan. However, it also found that, although there is a climate of harassment and discrimination towards Ahmadis, the appellant had never personally felt any real fear until the events which occurred in October 2014. He had managed to live a pretty peaceful life in Pakistan working as a police constable and having some non-Ahmadis among his close friends.

  • Kofoworola Adeolu David v Marie Gabriel, Alice Wyman, East London NHS Foundation Trust  [2016] EWHC 2799 (QB)

It is clear that for there to be a civil claim under the 1997 Act a claimant must show that there has been a course of conduct on the part of some person which amounts to harassment and which that person knows, or ought to know, amounts to harassment.

The Claimant there asserts that there have been monitoring mechanisms relating to his communications and also collusion with a view to having him struck off the register of governors. Yet again, however, there is no flesh on the bones and correspondingly, therefore, no real prospect of his succeeding in this part of the claim.

It was accepted that there is no cogent reason to suppose that harassment has taken place, the relevant Defendants are entitled to an order under CPR 3.4.

  • Ware v McAllister [2015] EWHC 3086 (QB)

 The court granted a final injunction restraining a journalist from harassing a businessman. What had started as a legitimate exercise in public interest journalism in 2002 had become almost a personal vendetta against the businessman which could not be justified as freedom of expression.

  • Brand v Berki [2015] EWHC 3373 (QB)

 Claimants, who were well-known public figures, were awarded a final injunction against a defendant where there was no real prospect of the defendant showing that she had reasonable grounds for embarking upon her course of conduct, which amounted to harassment.

The claimants were well-known public figures. There had been an encounter between the parties at the second claimant’s home, and a dispute as to what happened. The defendant complained about the treatment she had allegedly sustained to the police, and also to a number of newspapers. The claimants’ case was that the defendant’s conduct amounted to harassment, which had caused them anxiety and distress.

A local resident was prevented by an interim injunction from publishing allegations that a local authority, its officers, employees and councillors had committed criminal or other misconduct, as his defence to their claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, that his persistent campaign of harassment was justified under s.1(3)(a) of the Act by a desire to prevent or detect crime, was likely to fail at trial.

The defendant lived within the local authority’s area. The claimants had brought a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, alleging that the defendant had engaged in a persistent campaign of harassment against them which included over 2,400 emails and establishing a website, blog and leaflets in which he accused the claimants variously of corruption, fraud, misconduct, victimisation, bullying, intercepting his communications and unspecified other criminal offences

It was held that the defendant had no real prospect of establishing that his campaign of harassment was justified by s.1(3)(a) of the Act. The right of free speech could not be used as a cloak for verbal harassment.  The Defendant’s conduct had been deliberate and purposeful and he must have known what effect it would have, and that it amounted to harassment.

This case is concerned with the ability to bring forward a harassment claim extended to persons who were foreseeable and directly harmed and not the actual individual who was targeted. The claimant was granted an injunction restraining further harassment. 

The defendant and claimant had been in a relationship together and had a child together (the claimant had another child with another partner). The separated in July 2003 and the defendant moved out of their home. From August there was reoccurring incidents of the defendant turning up at the claimants’ house and being very aggressive, threatened her and even pushed her on one occasion. In addition to this he walked in to the claimants’ home one time and threatened to hang himself and took a knife to stab himself but was stopped and in consequence cut one of the women helping. He was arrested at the scene by the police.

After this incident, the defendant yet again attacked the claimant in front of their child, threatened her and would wait for her at her home while she was out. He pleaded guilty to undertaking a course of conduct which caused another to fear that violence would be used against them contrary to section 4(1) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.  He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

The defendant appeals and claimed that the sentence was rather excessive and the appeal was allowed. In the circumstances due to the plea of guilt he made the appropriate total sentence would be two years’ imprisonment instead.

The court granted an injunction restraining harassment of a woman and her son after they had been photographed in what was said to be an aggressive and intrusive manner by two photographers outside their home. They had refused to identify which newspapers employed them although one said that he was freelance. The judge said that it was legitimate to bring proceedings against the photographers as persons unknown, since it had been impossible despite inquiries to identify them.

  • Raymond and another v Young and another [2015] All ER (D) 160

The claimants brought forward proceedings alleging trespass, nuisance and harassment to their neighbours. Section 3(2) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was considered in this case. Total damages awarded came to a total of £20,000.

TDD was an escort who met AVB who wished to pay for her services. Their relationship was that of client and sex worker. After the breakdown of their relationship (which had been on and off for about 14 months), C applied for, and obtained, an interim injunction against D preventing her from disclosing private information about C and his family, information about C and D’s relationship and photographs of C engaged in private acts and also for harassment due to emails he had received from her. It was held that TDD’s actions did not amount to harassment. The facts of the case raised difficulties as there was a long interval between the acts complained of. They were too far apart to be part of the same course of conduct within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Challenging the issue and retention of data relating to a police harassment warning notice / police information notice (PIN). Held that the police have to properly justify retention of data / information.

The Judge awarded the claimant £7,500 in damages due to the constant telephone calls made by the Bank of Scotland about the state of her accounts. Over 547 telephone calls were made in a year to the claimant and was held that the Bank’s conduct amounted to harassment both because of the number of the calls and their content, some of which were intimidatory.

This trial was about the misuse of private information arising out of a threat to disclose private information concerning the Claimants unless a substantial amount of money was paid. The only relief granted by the Claimants was for an injunction to restrain the disclosure of this information and continuing harassment by the first defendant. The existing and future threats made by the defendant created both fear and concern from the claimant and this conduct clearly falls within the provisions of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Posting threatening messages on the internet and by email can amount to a “course of conduct”.

Tugendhat J indicated why it may be appropriate to plead a remedy under the DPA in addition to a claim in libel (and, in that case, harassment). The different causes of action are directed to protecting different aspects of the right to private life: the relevant provisions of the DPA include the aim of protection from being subjected unfairly and unlawfully to distress

This case is an issue whether the application to identify an individual should be allowed. The injunction was somewhat successful. The injunction permitted the disclosure of the individual’s job description but not the disclosure of her name. It was held that disclosure of her name would be a significant intrusion in to her private life and family life from which she was entitled to protect.

AMP had lost her phone and she did not have a password on it. Shortly after some of the images on her phone, of a sexual nature, had been uploaded to a website. Although taken down from social media websites such as Facebook, there were many other websites that these images were uploaded on. It was held that the Claimant was entitled to an interim injunction to prevent the distribution of the digital photographic images, either by conventional downloading from a site or by downloading by the use of the BitTorrent Protocol. It was held that there was a breach in the Claimants privacy and breach of the provisions in the Protection of Harassment Act 1997. She was awarded damages.

The Claimant seeks relief under Section 3 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 in the form of an injunction to restrain an actual or expected breach of the terms of that Act. The Claimant lost her mobile phone and the Defendant found the phone without a username lock activated and subsequently uploaded images of a sexual nature  to a free online media hosting service. The Claimant was informed by strangers on Facebook that the images had been uploaded and that her name and Facebook profile had been attached to them. She accordingly contacted the online media hosting service and the images were removed promptly in about August 2008. In about July 2008 the Claimant was contacted on Facebook by someone who stated their name was Nils Henrik-Derimot. That person threatened to expose her identity and to post the images widely online and tell her friends about the images if she did not add him as a friend on Facebook. She deleted these Facebook messages and blocked the sender.

At about the same time her father’s business public relations team were contacted and allegedly threatened and blackmailed about some images but it was not specified that the images were of her.

On 2 November 2008 the images were uploaded to a Swedish website that hosts files known as “BitTorrent” files. The images have since been downloaded an unknown number of times by persons unknown.

It was agreed by the judge that there has been conduct on at least two occasions and the conduct was targeted at the Claimant to cause alarm and distress and it was founded that the conduct inevitably amounted to harassment, alarm or distress.

The claimant sought protection under the The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 from his former employers’ behavior in making repeated allegations against him. An act which occurred during the course of proceedings and after the issue of the claim form can be relied upon to establish a course of conduct.

False allegations made to neighbours and to the police about a claimant which led to many police visits to the claimants house were held to be a course of conduct amounting to harassment.

This claim was for an injunction requiring the publisher of the “Solicitors from Hell” website to be deleted and be restrained from making another that is similar, contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. At the end of the hearing the Judge permitted a restraining order to prevent another similar website being created. It was reasonable to believe that the comments made in the website would cause distress and alarm on more than two occasions.

The claimant does not need to establish that any loss or injury sustained by the harassment was foreseeable. There is nothing in the language of the statute to import an additional requirement of foreseeability.

It was deemed appropriate to strike out libel actions brought by a resident in the United Kingdom against a Norwegian police officer living in Norway. The court had no jurisdiction over the claims and the claims were an abuse of process

It was held that there is now a restraint from paparazzi photographers harassing individuals.

This case deals with the breach of Protection from Harassment Act 1997 by getting rid of an employee who suffered a short period of moderate depression but did not disclose this information to her former employer. After having a couple weeks off week due to illness, she was told that she did not have a job when she got back and that she was required to pay back one months’ wages. Rayment claimed that the events at work had caused her to develop an adjustment disorder and depression. Further incidents included the return of photographs of sexually explicit women that Rayment removed from a rest room. The judgement held that the conduct by the company was oppressive, unacceptable and amounted to harassment.

Claim of harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was successful and the claimant’s were awarded £6,000 in damages.

The Claimants claim that such conduct and amounted to harassment and that the defendant’s conduct caused not only distress and anxiety but personal injury to the first Complainant and was unable to work. The main matters relied upon are that the first defendant in particular was aggressive and insulting towards Ms Jones and that he was dismissive of her reasonable complaints as to the nuisance of his building works and thirdly that the true colour of this course of conduct was exemplified by two things.

Ms Jones and Ms Lovegrove have lived together in a same sex partnership for some years. Firstly his diary in which Ms Jones and Ms Lovegrove were referred to by particularly disparaging names and secondly by several notes that were released from the bedroom window of 103 and came down into the courtyard of 105 at a time when the children were clearly present upstairs as was evident from their voices and their mother was present too according to Ms Jones. The children were then eight and ten. In the notes there is a clear reference to lesbians and homosexuality and the like.

An alleged act of harassment which occurred around 18 months after the previous acts of harassment, and in different circumstances, did not form part of a course of conduct when considered with the previous incidents.

The Court of Appeal has held that an employer was vicariously liable under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 for a managers course of conduct to an employer.

In deciding whether there was harassment the primary focus was on whether the conduct complained of was oppressive and unacceptable.

A married couple divorced in 2007 and as part of a residence order of their twims in the favour of the wife she gave undertakings that she would not harass the husband and only communicate with him through solicitors until March 2009. She breached this order 6 times and for each contempt she received various sentences ranging from 6 to 21 months. Incidences include visiting his home and shouting allegations from the street and setting fire to his motorbike. In an appeal the judge believed that the sentencing she received was excessive given the circumstances and it was reduced to 6 months. Wall LJ also adds a supplementary judgment setting out some guidelines on sentencing for the future.

In this case the Claimant was receiving unlawful threats to cut off her gas supply even though she had terminated her contract with company months back. It was strongly arguably that the conduct of British gas repeatedly sending threatening letters to the Claimant was capable of satisfying the test of gravity. A person who experienced this sort of problem would more than likely suffer real anxiety and distressed if threatened the way that the Claimant was threatened.

Court of appeal accepted that there can be liability for harassment even If the material is automatically generated by a computer.

Court cases for damages and injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 against one of the company’s directors. He claimed the director made threatening phone calls and sent threatening emails to him about the loan. In one, the director said he was tempted to “beat [him] to within an inch of his life”. The two cases were combined.

The court said that by the time that comment was made, the director should have known his conduct had become oppressive and amounted to harassment that could cause alarm and distress. As the director was acting on the company’s behalf, the company was liable for his actions. The court therefore reduced the debt due to the company by £7,000 plus interest, as compensation for his anxiety. Damages for financial loss in a PHA claim should be calculated on a ‘but for’ basis, which means damages, can be recovered for loss of an opportunity to make money because of the harassment.

Court of appeal stated that it was irrelevant whether someone was gay or not or if the bullies believe the person is gay or not, if the harassment has sexuality as its focus it constitutes as harassment.

Sedley LJ: “The incessant mockery (“banter”) created a degrading and hostile working environment and it did so on grounds of sexual orientation.

While you cannot legislate against prejudice, you can set out in specified circumstances to stop people’s lives being made a misery by it”.

The judge made an injunction restraining the appellant from harassing the claimant, his family and several witnesses. He was consequently in breach of his restraining order when he contacted a witness who was to give evidence at the hearing. The course of conduct was the principle cause of the claimants’ anxiety state. When assessing damages for psychiatric injury and injury to feelings, there was no rule about whether separate damages should be awarded. If the psychiatric damage was very small and merged with injured feelings then it would plainly be more convenient to make one award covering both aspects but if the psychiatric damage was not substantial then the judge should separate the award for psychiatric damage from that of injury to feelings.

The Court of Appeal applied the dicta of the decision in (Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Truest 2006) and confirmed that a civil claim for harassment could only be sustained where the two or more incidents were of such gravity to justify the sanction of the criminal law.

In the instant case the judge had been wrong to hold that the two incidents amounted to a course of conduct because although the second incident was borderline oppressive and unacceptable conduct, the first was not.

An employee’s nine separate allegations of ‘harassment’ in breach of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 were rejected by the High Court.  Even if the alleged incidents had taken place, they were not serious enough to satisfy the definition of harassment under the Act, which requires the claimant to establish oppressive and unreasonable conduct.  The Judge relied on Lord Nicholls’ comments in Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust Ltd that to give rise to liability under the Act, conduct would have to be oppressive and unreasonable and calculated to cause distress. His Lordship also thought that the conduct should be of such gravity as to be capable of sustaining criminal liability under S.2.

The claimant was having an affair with the defendant however once it ended the Defendant threatened to reveal their affair to the world out of revenge and to make money from the media. The claimant brought forward a claim contrary to Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to restrain the defendant from harassing him and such an act would be a breach of confidence. There was a claim of harassment due to the communication that the Defendant had received such as abusive telephone calls and emails. Consequently, the Claimant applied for interim injunction relief and it was granted to restrain the defendant to refrain from communicating with the media in relation to their former relationship. It was held that even “wronged” husbands are entitled to privacy.

Vicarious liability for harassment occurs either by proving that one employee, on at least two occasions, pursued a course of conduct which amounted to harassment, or that there have been acts of harassment by more than one employee,  each acting on different occasions in furtherance of some joint design.

A former employee was entitled to damages for psychiatric injury and consequently the loss and damage that she suffered as a result of the harassment and bullying by her fellow employees. Green had been subject to a group of women’s relentless campaign of mean and spiteful behaviour designed to cause her distress. The behavior had occurred with great frequency and only targeted at Green. The connection between the nature of the employment of the women and the behavior in issue was so close that it was just and reasonable to hold the company liable for it. The bullying had given rise to a foreseeable risk of psychiatric damage. In any event, the company had failed to protect Green and breached it duty of care imposed on employers to their employees.

This case deals with seeking an interim injunction for a public protest. The terms of the injunction held that “abusive or threatening communications by telephone, in writing, in faxes or e-mails, should surely play no part in any legitimate protest”

The House of Lords held that there was a new statutory tort for harassment in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and it made employers vicariously liable.

For conduct to amount to harassment it must cross the boundary between that which is ‘unattractive and even unreasonable and  which is oppressive and unacceptable’; the gravity of the conduct must be of a level to sustain criminal liability.

Harassment can amount to “stalkers, racial abusers, disruptive neighbors, bullying at work and so forth”.

It is not necessary to prove an intention to alarm or distress a person but it is sufficient enough to hold liability when their conduct has produced those consequences.

The Claimant was a former manager of one of the Defendant’s hardware stores. He left upon agreed terms. Shortly afterwards, he brought proceedings in the Employment Tribunal claiming unfair dismissal (these proceedings were ultimately dismissed). He also sued the Defendant for libel based on words published about him in a report compiled by 2 of the Defendant’s managers as to the working of the store of which the Claimant was manager; for slander based on words spoken in disciplinary interviews; for malicious falsehood (basing his claim on the same words as those complained of in the defamation claims); and for harassment, claiming he had been forced to sign the compromise agreement agreeing the terms of his departure from the Defendant. The allegations in harassment were not supported by any evidence and were entirely fanciful. The Defendant should have summary judgment in respect of the harassment claim

It was held that it was justified to continue an order for an injunction due to the behaviour of the claimant and to consequently continue to protect the claimants. From the judgement it was clear that Cosias was an individual with variable and unpredictable moods. He was prone to outbursts, and aggressive and abusive behaviour towards those in the office. The company had terminated his contract with immediate dismissal and yet they were still getting threatened.

This case is concerned with the standard of proof required for entitlement of an injunction. In order to provide an injunction the civil standard of proof is usually the balance of probabilities. Harassment can cover a very wide range of conduct. It may involve actions, words or both at the same time (section 7(4)). The actions may be so grave that they amount to a criminal offence against public order, or against a person, which causes serious alarm. A|s long as the conduct is sufficient enough to cause distress then it is sufficient enough to bring forward a claim of harassment. Words may extreme, incitements or threats of violence that causes alarm, even unwelcome texts from a person can amount to harassment. And the conduct can be that of an individual or an organisation such as the news media.

Actor and actress Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas suffered “real distress” from photographs published in Hello magazine of their wedding day. The judge awarded damages for breach of confidential information and was awarded £3,750 to each claimant.

The Claimant was granted an injunction to prevent publishing images of the Claimant in a Mayfair Brother. However, the court refused to grant an injunction preventing it publishing an article in the Sunday People the next day which stated that the Claimant had visited a brothel.

It was stated that an injunction would be unlikely to be granted at trial because article 10 and 8 of the freedom of expression of the Sunday People would be given a greater weight than the extra degree of intrusion into the Claimants privacy.

This is a case helping tribunals decide how much compensation to award for injury to feelings.

It was held that publications in newspapers could in fact amount to harassment, but only in rare circumstances.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers MR also spoke about what constitutes harassment. He said that the meaning of harassment is generally understood by all.

He did go on to say that although there is no actual definition of harassment, “section 7 is dealing with that element of the offense which is constituted by the effect of the conduct rather than with the types of conduct that produces that effect”

in addition to “alarming the person or causing the person distress” you must also act in a way that is “oppressive and unreasonable”

The Sun Newspaper wrote an article about two police officers who had been demoted to constable due to a complaint of racism. Contrary to section 3(1) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the claimant claimed that the Sun had been guilty of harassment because the series of publications were meant to provoke hostility by the readers against her race and as a result of the publication she had received hate mail.

It was held that publications in newspapers could in fact amount to harassment, but only in rare circumstances, especially if the article is likely to incite racial hatred of an individual.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers MR also spoke about what constitutes harassment. He said that the meaning of harassment is generally understood by all.

He did go on to say that although there is no actual definition of harassment, “section 7 is dealing with that element of the offense which is constituted by the effect of the conduct rather than with the types of conduct that produces that effect”

in addition to “alarming the person or causing the person distress” you must also act in a way that is “oppressive and unreasonable”

The court emphasized that the fewer and wider spread the incidents put in evidence, the less likely they would be found to constitute a course of conduct.

In this case two incidents said to constitute a course of conduct took place between a 4 months’ period. On the first instance the boyfriend slapped his girlfriend in the face, and on the second he threatened his estranged partner’s new boyfriend in her presence.

The Judge ruled that this could not amount to a course of conduct:

“I fully accept that the incidents which need to be proved in relation to harassment need not exceed two incidents, but, as it seems to me, the fewer the occasions and the wider they are spread the less likely it would be that a finding of harassment can reasonably be made”. 

In this case, the incidents could not be described to constitute a course of conduct causing harassment in the circumstances, especially as in the second incident the threat was not directed at the victim herself.

The appellant in this case was the subject to an injunction granted by the County Court. One of the terms of that injunction was that he should not go within 250 yards of a specified address. He did so. The defendant was subsequently sentenced to an eight week suspended sentence for repeatedly breaching the injunction through a number of incidents such as contacting the Complainant and visiting her home. An injunction may create an exclusive zone if that is reasonably necessary for the protection of the claimants legitimate interests.

  • Dpp v Williams [1989] Crim LR 382 

Generating a climate of fear or uncertainty against an identifiable group of people amounts to harassment.