Legal Eagle: Seek legal aid if accused of a harassment charge
My brother has recently separated from his wife and he has not taken it well.
He doesn’t want his children spending time with her new partner who he believes is an alcoholic and unsuitable.
He has now told me that his wife has reported him to the police as she believes he has been following her, monitoring her Facebook account and she has told the police he placed a monitoring device on her car.
My brother doesn’t believe he has done anything wrong and that he has only done what any concerned father would do.
Is it possible he has committed a criminal offence?
It is likely that the police will want to speak to your brother about an alleged offence of harassment by stalking.
He could be arrested or interviewed under caution on a voluntary basis.
Either way he should ask for a solicitor to be present as legal advice at that stage will be free and independent.
Two criminal offences of stalking were created in November 2012. The most serious involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, could result in a prison sentence of up to five years at crown court. The maximum sentence for stalking without fear of violence is up to six months at magistrates’ court.
To be guilty it would have to be proven that your brother, on at least two occasions, pursued a course of conduct amounting to stalking.
This behaviour needs to cause harassment of another that your brother would know or ought to know caused harassment.
Acts associated with stalking include: following a person; contacting a person by any means; monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication; loitering in any place (whether public or private); interfering with any property in the possession of a person; watching or spying on a person.
There are three defences to an allegation of Stalking:
1. that the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime;
2. that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment; or
3. that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
You brother should seek legal advice as soon as possible and ensure that a solicitor attends the police interview with him.
Please ask him to contact our criminal department at Ben Hoare Bell so that we can advise him in more detail. He can phone us on 0191 565 3112 or email firstname.lastname@example.org