What is Stalking and Harassment ?

Stalking and harassment is when someone repeatedly behaves in a way that makes you feel scared, distressed or threatened. Stalking and harassment is a criminal offence.

There are different types of stalking and harassment and anyone can be a victim. Stalking and harassment are offences under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

There is no legal definition of cyberstalking but it is recognised as being different from harassment as it involves fixated and obsessive behaviour. This maybe to gather information, monitor or discredit the victim.

Social Media and other Electronic Communications – Crown Prosecution Service


Someone you know could be harassing you, like a neighbour, or people from your local area or it could be a stranger.

Harassment may include:

  • bullying at school or in the workplace
  • cyber stalking (using the internet to harass someone)
  • antisocial behaviour
  • sending abusive text messages
  • sending unwanted gifts
  • unwanted phone calls, letters, emails or visits

It’s harassment if the unwanted behaviour has happened more than once.

What is stalking and harassment? Police UK

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is unlawful, as a form of discrimination, under the Equality Act 2010.

Some of these are also forms of sexual or indecent assault.

The Act says it’s sexual harassment if the unwanted behaviour:

  • violates your dignity
  • creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment (this includes the digital environment, online)

Some examples of sexual harassment would include:

  • sexual comments, jokes or gestures
  • staring or leering at your body
  • using names like ’slut’ or ‘whore’
  • unwanted sexual communications, like emails, texts, DMs
  • sharing sexual photos or videos
  • groping and touching
  • someone exposing themselves
  • pressuring you to do sexual things or offering you something in exchange for sex
What is stalking and harassment ? – Police UK


Stalking is like harassment, but it’s more aggressive. The stalker will have an obsession with the person they’re targeting.

Stalking may include:

  • regularly following someone
  • repeatedly going uninvited to their home
  • checking someone’s internet use, email or other electronic communication
  • hanging around somewhere they know the person often visits
  • interfering with their property
  • watching or spying on someone
  • identity theft (signing-up to services, buying things in someone’s name)

It’s stalking if the unwanted behaviour has happened more than once.

What is stalking and harassment ? – Police UK

Online stalking and harassment

Social networking sites, chat rooms, gaming sites and other forums are often used to stalk and harass someone, for example:-

  • to get personal information
  • to communicate (calls, texts, emails, social media, creating fake accounts)  
  • damaging the reputation
  • spamming and sending viruses 
  • tricking other internet users into harassing or threatening
  • identity theft 
  • threats to share private information, photographs, copies of messages
What is stalking and harassment ? – Police UK

Stalking or Harassment Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

The CPS publish prosecution guidance to assist prosecutors with the general principles to be applied when making decisions about prosecutions involving stalking or harassment. It provides guidance on:-

  • the importance of focusing on whether conduct experienced by the victim in its entirety amounts to stalking or harassment, whether the police have investigated those or other individual offences
  • selecting appropriate charges, in order to apply the Code for Crown Prosecutors where there is an overlap between stalking, harassment and/or controlling or coercive behaviour
  • acceptance of pleas
  • the prosecutor’s role in supporting the victim

Stalking or harassment offences can be found in sections 2, 2A, 4 and 4A of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA 1997) and section 42A (1) Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. There are racially and religiously aggravated forms of the PHA offences: see sections 28 and 32 Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Racist and Religious Hate Crime prosecution guidance.

Stalking or Harassment – Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

Report Stalking and Harassment

You should contact the police if you’re being stalked or suffering harassment. Call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger of stalking and harassment.

What is the maximum sentence for harassment or stalking ?

Parliament sets the maximum (and sometimes minimum) penalty for any offence. When deciding the appropriate sentence, the court must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, unless it is not in the interests of justice to do so.

If the offence is harassment or stalking:

  • the maximum sentence is six months’ custody
  • if racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is two years’ custody

If the offence is harassment (putting people in fear of violence) or stalking (involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress):

  • the maximum sentence is 10 years’ custody
  • if racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is 14 years’ custody
Harassment and stalking – Sentencing Council

False Allegations of Stalking and Harassment

If false allegations of stalking and harassment are made to the Police, then this can also classed be as a criminal offence.

The offence of wasting police time is committed when a person causes any wasteful employment of the police. Wasting Police Time – section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.

If you are caught wasting police time you could be jailed for up to six months and/or fined. Instead of taking you to court, the police might issue you with a fixed penalty notice under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA 2001).

Check out our article on the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board and make up your own mind.

We recommend you should always seek formal legal advice if required, from a qualified and reputable lawyer (solicitor or barrister).

Our Family Solicitor and Family Barristers pages contains tips on how to find a competent lawyer.

We have a number of links to Free Legal Resources and Legal Organisations on our Free Legal Advice , Legal Aid and Pro Bono pages.

Read the reviews of Gavin Howe Barrister

“He is awful, underhanded and should not be practising law!”

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Dom Watts is the founder of the Ministry of Injustice. Dom works in IT and has no legal training and is not a lawyer. You can find Dom on X or Google.

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