There is often a confusion about internet harassment on the question whether it is a crime or a civil wrongdoing in the UK. In many jurisdictions in the United States harassment by itself is not a civil wrongdoing and you may only take relative action in the civil courts in relation to harassment when the harassment demonstrates itself by way of other wrongdoings, such as blackmail and extortion for example.
In the United Kingdom, internet harassment is a criminal offence and a civil wrongdoing and they both happen at the same time. You can take legal action both in the civil and in the criminal courts to stop internet harassment. Internet harassment should be treated the same way as offline harassment but sadly, victims of internet harassment in the UK are often being treated much less favourably by the police than victims of offline harassment so often they have no choice other than take their matter to the civil courts to seek a harassment injunction . Perhaps this is because the police in the UK find it easier to investigate traditional cases of harassment.
Internet harassment is often much more prevalent, persistent and unrelenting than offline harassment. The ongoing publications which constitute online harassment tend to target the victim, causing him or her tremendous distress.
The standard of proof for internet harassment in a civil court is lower than in the criminal courts. However, one of the factors that is often considered by judges in a civil court, when considering whether to grant an emergency injunction to protect a victim of harassment, is whether the harassment has reached the same level that would satisfy a criminal court.
To constitute harassment, internet harassment does not have to be threatening or intimidating. It is enough for the online publications to be continuous and to cause distress and anxiety to the victim. We encourage our clients who suffer from internet harassment in the UK to make repeated reports to the police and we often provide them with good advice and tools to ensure that their reports are taken seriously and are acted upon. This is often in addition to taking their internet harassment case to the civil courts
It is rare for victims of internet harassment to pursue their harasser through both the criminal and the civil court. In fact, we know of only one such internet harassment case where the same harassers were taking to a criminal and a civil court following internet harassment. The case was conducted by one of our solicitors, Yair Cohen, who after securing a conviction for harassment in a criminal court against an individual harasser, he, on behalf of his client, also won an internet harassment case in the civil court against the harasser and the web design company he was working for. In the civil court, the charges were based on the fact that the internet harassment also constituted internet defamation, misuse of private information and breach of privacy of the victim. You can also read here about more examples of internet harassment cases that have been won by Yair Cohen.
In some cases, our team at Cohen Davis is able to initiate private prosecution for internet harassment by effectively bypassing the UK police’s resistance to seriously investigate cases of internet harassment. Depending on the nature of your internet harassment case, the initiation of private prosecution for internet harassment can be done very quickly and certainly in most cases, we are able to initiate private prosecution for internet harassment faster than the police.
To discuss your online harassment matter call us free, as soon as possible on 0800 612 7211.