WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEING HARASSED?
Our legal system caters for persons who fall victim to harassment, it is important to familiarise yourself with what you can do when you are being harassed and/or someone you know has fallen victim to harassment. There are many questions that arise in how to best approach the harassment which we will deal with hereunder.
What constitutes harassment?
This is when a person’s conduct is so abusive, rude and/or extreme that it causes harm to another person or inculcates the reasonable belief that harm will be sustained and/or suffered. The types of harm that may be suffered includes mental, psychological, physical or financial harm. Harassment may be perpetrated directly or indirect by, inter alia, watching the victim (“complainant”), pursuing the complainant, accosting the complainant, loitering outside or near the place the complainant resides or works, making telephone calls, sending anonymous text messages and delivering packages or other objects to the complainant.
What options are available to the complainant?
The complainant themselves may approach the magistrates court and apply for a protection order, this applies to minor children as well and persons who approach the courts on behalf of a complainant. A protection order obtained to refrain harassment may be obtained against any person, such as a stranger, friend or work colleague.
What happens in court when an interim protection order is applied for?
The complainant will be assisted by the clerk of the court having jurisdiction and/or may appoint an attorney to approach the court on their behalf. An application will have to be completed by the complainant or his/her attorney. Once completed the application is given to a magistrate who peruses the application and any other evidence supplemented by the complainant. If the magistrates is satisfied that there is enough evidence illustrating harassment, he/she will issue an interim protection order supplemented by a provisional warrant of arrest enforced by police in the event the harasser (“respondent”) fails to comply with the interim protection order.
What should the complainant do once the interim protection order is granted?
A copy of the interim protection order will be given to the complainant who can thereafter, attend at the nearest police station and have the interim protection order served on the respondent. The copy will indicate the return date in which the respondent is to appear before a Magistrate and defend themselves, by providing evidence illustrating why the Interim protection order should not be made a final order of court. Should the respondent fail to appear and provide evidence, the court may direct that the matter be heard in the absence of the respondent and have the interim protection order made a final order of court.
The contents of the final protection order will have directives to ensure that the complainant will be protected against harassment and guaranteeing his/her safety. If these directives are not followed by the respondent he/she may be found guilty of an offence and face a fine or imprisonment of up to five (5) years, provided that the protection order is still enforceable.
-Philip Da Silva