What to do if you are harassed by a family member
This case study delves into the experience of Arnold, a client who sought our firm's assistance in resolving an ongoing harassment by family issue. This article explores the intricate details of Arnold's predicament, examining its profound impact on his family, the legal counsel provided by our firm, the strategic course of action, and the ultimate success achieved.
Table of content
Our client, Arnold (not his real name), contacted our law firm due to an ongoing struggle. For two years prior to Arnold contacting us, he and other members of his family were being harassed were harassed by John, his uncle. The scale of the harassment that Arnold described extended far beyond natural family grievances. Examples included contacting Arnold’s wife’s school, due to her being a trustee, with fabricated stories about her. He also sent fake legal letters to Arnold’s dad in relation to old photographs, sent a large number of emails to his wife’s parents, and threatened to ruin their reputation and that of other elderly family members.
At the time Arnold contacted us, his wife was pregnant and felt increasingly distressed about the ongoing harassment. The family felt the need to keep her pregnancy a secret because they feared that when John found out, he would intensify his harassing campaign and direct it more squarely towards his wife. In fact, his harassment campaign caused almost the entire family to stay away from social media. Much of the harassment was a Facebook harassment. John's erratic behaviour kept all of them in a constant state of alert, fearing what he might do next. A general consensus among the family was that they had to resolve this matter immediately; otherwise, the harassing conduct could escalate in the years to come.
In some cases, the police will be able to help with harassment by a family member. However, this isn't always the case. Too often, the police will stay away from what they wrongly consider civil matters. Unfortunately, the police treat harassment by family members as a civil matter instead of a criminal offense. There is a notable exception, which is cases of harassment between couples who live or used to live together. In our case, our client Arnold contacted the police to report John’s conduct. Sadly, the police were hugely unhelpful and said that due to John residing in Germany, he was beyond the reach of UK police.
This advice from the police was misleading and incorrect, likely given out of either ignorance or laziness. We informed Arnold that this avenue, of having the police support and assist him, was still available to him, and there is a process whereby you can appeal the police’s decision to not proceed with a criminal investigation. Our experience told us that if Arnold persists, the police will eventually be forced to investigate. However, the investigation was likely to take a long time, and by that time, Arnold had very little confidence left in the police.
If you are harassed by a family member and the police aren't being helpful, there are various alternative steps that might be available to you. In Arnold’s case, our main objective was to compel John to cease and desist his harassing conduct against the entire extended family, ensuring he did this as quickly as possible. For speed, we advised Arnold to apply for an injunction against John under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. However, we also advised him to take an additional step before going into the expense that an application of this nature is likely to involve.
In simple terms, we advised him to prepare the case for an injunction against harassment, including preparing a full statement of the case and a witness statement to ensure that when we communicate with John, he is left with no doubt as to how serious Arnold’s intentions are. Once the case was ready, we wrote to John and warned him about the imminent legal proceedings against him. We attached some of the material that we were planning to include with the injunction application. We invited him to agree on a voluntary basis to be prohibited from taking certain actions against Arnold and other family members.
We also offered him an opportunity to pay Arnold’s legal costs to date, which we explained were far lower than what they would be after we formally began the legal proceedings for harassment against him. We also offered him to pay a reduced amount of damages as compensation for his conduct to date. It was our stance that John would struggle to defend an injunction application against him. The standard of proof in civil cases is the balance of probabilities, which means the court would need to consider whether, on balance, his conduct amounted to harassment, which we had no doubt it did.
An injunction application would have required us to apply to the court for the service of legal documents outside of the jurisdiction, an application which would increase the legal costs, ultimately paid by John, the harasser. Much to our client’s satisfaction, an injunction was not required as our very detailed 17-page letter to John was enough for him to comply with Arnold’s demands. The harassment was brought to an end expeditiously and cost-effectively.
Lawyer’s thoughts about the case
Arnold's case serves as a compelling example of how legal intervention in harassment cases can effectively combat persistent harassment, even in situations where initial authorities appear uncooperative. Through a strategic approach, legal expertise, and unwavering determination, our firm successfully put an end to John's harassment campaign. This allowed Arnold and his family to regain their peace of mind and security.
If you or someone you know is grappling with a similar situation, make sure to consult legal professionals who can provide guidance and support to protect your well-being and legal rights. Do so as soon as possible.