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Using harassment law to enforce contact

6 November 2009 1,458 views 4 Comments

I have recently won a small legal victory in my fight to stay in touch with my children which may help others – private prosecution for harassment.

The effect on me of losing my children is simply not addressed by the Children Act, which discounts the interests of any party other than the child. Even when a father is driven to suicide by the loss of his children, that is held to be a matter of no concern to the Family Court.

So, how are the rights of parents to be protected? The Protection from Harassment Act would seem, at first sight, to offer a solution. Harassment is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “trouble or vex by repeated attacks” and the harassment act itself defines it as a course of conduct which the perpetrator knows or should know to be harassment. The Act’s definition also includes causing alarm or distress to another.

When one parent systematically destroys the bonds between a child and the other parent that would seem to fit this definition; it is a course of conduct which the perpetrator knows will cause distress to the other parent.

The Police were unimpressed when I first made a complaint that my ex-wife was harassing me, and when the conduct continued, I used an arcane piece of law to apply to prosecute her myself in the Magistrates Court, as a Private Prosecutor. This right dates back to the days before there was a Crown Prosecution Service, or even police forces, when it was the right and duty of any subject to prosecute when he received information of an offence. That right still remains in law.

The Magistrates refused to issue a summons to allow the prosecution to begin. I challenged that decision at a Judicial Review and won, and the High Court has remitted the case back to the Magistrates to be reconsidered. The judgment has been published in Family Law Week.

Private prosecution is not the way forward in the long term, but if it can help to establish that such conduct is a form of criminal harassment, it will have served its purpose. Individual dads and mums would then be better able to ask the Police to enforce their rights.

I’ll keep this site posted with how the case progresses from here on.

Ray Barry


  • heartbroken_dad2003 said:

    Very Good Ray, this may be an avenue to try, Thanks

  • E.J.Frogster said:

    I thought harassment law was, when person A harasses person B that’s not permitted? So here it’s like person A harasses person C indirectly by harassing person B a great deal? You are saying that it still constitutes harassment? Please explain.

    I did have someone trying to accuse me of harassment. Woman A told me not to contact woman B at all and she said if I contacted woman B, she would involve the police. However, by that date, woman B had been pleased to see me and hear from me. She was not at all distressed by my contacting and if she minded, she should have told me not to contact her. She did not say that. Woman A tried to speak for her. It was quite confusing and at the end of the day, I could only conclude that woman A got everything wrong.

  • ray (author) said:

    The Harassment Act includes harassment via a 3rd party, e.g. if person A tells his friend B to go round to C’s house every day and throw bricks through the windows, then A can be charged with harassing C.

    Strangely, the Act doesn’t define what harassment is, except to say it is what the person carrying out the action knows or ought to know is harassment. So, your state of knowing is what counts. Whether or not someone had told you not to contact woman B may well be a factor a court would take into account, but it is not the most important thing. To convict you of harassment, the prosecution must prove you knew or ought to have known that what you were doing would alarm or distress her.

  • E.J.Frogster said:

    Ray, what the heck is up with the police that they are just not impressed when people bring legitimate criminal matters to their attention?? I mean, harassment is properly criminal!!! Why don’t they understand the crimninal law? My case is rape by fraud/ procuring women by false pretenses, the authors of bestselling criminal law textbooks like Jonathan Herring say it’s illegal and it’s sexual offences but the police say it is nothing, also they were NOT the ones who pointed me to a private prosecution!!!! Also qualified lawyers say I have a case! I basically think I need to be the guinea pig of 125 years of legal history so that other women will find it easier to prosecute.
    And if women are getting violated all over the place there will be no families!!!!!!

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