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The protection from Harassment act 1997 or PHA, was introduced in order to protect people from harassment and similar conduct.

Under this act, it is an offence to pursue a course of conduct that amounts to harassment of a person.  A court may issue a restraining order against someone found guilty of such an offence.

There is no complete definition of harassment in the PHA and so it will be a matter for assessment based on the facts in each case, though the PHA does make it clear that harassment includes causing alarm or distress. It is important to note that there must be a ‘course of conduct’ in order to bring a claim. This means that there must be at least two incidents representing harassment and the person who is carrying out the harassment must know or ought to know that it would amount to harassment.

Although two incidents can be enough, the fewer the incidents and the further apart in time they are, the less likely a court will be to find that there has been a ‘course of conduct’.  The PHA protects an individual from collective harassment by two or more people. This remedies a potential loophole in the law where two or more people each carry out only one act of harassment.