Protection from Harassment Act
The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) protects you against various types of harassment such as:
- Intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress through threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, communication, as well as through disclosure of personal data of the target person (also known as doxing);
- Engaging in behaviour or communication which are likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress when perceived by any person;
- Causing fear, making provocations, or facilitating violence;
- Insulting or behaving in an indecent, abusive or threatening manner towards public officials or public service workers; and
- Unlawful stalking.
Depending on which remedies you desire, you can choose between a criminal or civil route. For a criminal course of action, you may report the matter to the police. The police will investigate the matter. Thereafter, the prosecution will decide if any POHA offence is made out and, if so, whether to prosecute the offender. If convicted, an offender may be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to 12 months or both.
Should the police/prosecution take the view that an offence is not made out and/or there is no public interest in prosecuting the offender, you may choose to file a Magistrate’s Complaint against the offender. If the court allows that, this can result in you conducting a private prosecution against the offender.
For a civil course of action, in most cases, the goal is to obtain a protection order against the perpetrator. Such matters will be heard under the Protection from Harassment Court (PHC). PHC has a broad authority to include any directions to the protection which it deems necessary to stop the harassment. The terms of the protection order usually include a prohibition of any abusive acts towards the victim, discontinuing similar communication, and removal of harassing publications etc.