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Media harassment

By Steven | March 18, 2009

UK popster Lily Allen has obtained an order against paparazzi under the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act. Our Harassment Act contains similar provisions for anti-harassment orders. I’m not aware of any being used against the media here yet, but harassment is widely defined, and journalists or photographers who persistently hound people (including by accosting them or contacting them multiple times) may one day find themselves on the wrong end of a Harassment Act order.

Some imponderables: how might the defence of “lawful purpose” play out with respect to the media? Might the Act apply to repeated publications about someone? (If you look at the definition of “specified acts”, you’ll see that it’s a bit of a stretch to include merely publishing something about someone – is it really “making contact” with that person, or perhaps leaving offensive material where it can be found by them? If the publication contains threats, that may fit within s 4(1)(f) – causing someone to reasonably fear for their safety – defined to include mental well-being). A district court judge has suggested that the defences of truth and honest opinion should apply, though it’s not clear how that would fit with the scheme of the Harassment Act.

Topics: Harassment Act | 51 Comments »

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    I once worked on a case where a protection order (primarily on the harrassment ground) was granted against someone on the basis of their writing letters to MPs and other authority figures complaining about the other individual involved.

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