There are various harassment laws in NSW. Harassment includes acts such as offensive jokes and gestures, unwelcome behaviour, or acts via electronic communication such as sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails or text messages.
Harassment Laws NSW: Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007
Intimidation is a form of harassment. The law defines intimidation to be behaviour amounting to harassment or sexual assault, which causes fear of safety, or any other behaviour that causes a reasonable apprehension of violence or injury to someone. This includes damage to a person or his property.
What Acts Amount to Intimidation?
Section 7 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) provides that intimidation of a person means:
- conduct (including cyberbullying) amounting to harassment or molestation of the person, or
- an approach made to the person by any means (including by telephone, telephone text messaging, e-mailing and other technologically assisted means) that causes the person to fear for his or her safety, or
- any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to a person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship, or of violence or damage to any person or property.
Intimidation can refer to any act that creates fear of physical or mental harm and includes physical acts, non-physical acts, and threats of future harm. In addition, cyberbullying includes bullying of a person by publication or transmission of offensive material over social media or via email.
Stalking is closely related to harassment and includes acts such as watching a person’s house, sending a person repeated or unwanted Facebook messages or phone text messages, repeatedly calling a person at work, or frequently showing up at a person’s favourite restaurant, gym, or other places frequented by that person.
What Acts Amount to Stalking?
Section 8(1) of the Crime (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) provides that “stalking” includes the following:
- following a person around, or
- the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of, or an approach to, a person’s place of residence, business or work or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity, or
- contacting or otherwise approaching a person using the internet or any other technologically assisted means.
Hence, stalking involves a persistent course of conduct by which a person intends to maintain contact with or exercise power and control over another person. The stalker tries to intimidate or induce fear in the person they are stalking.
The victim may only realise they are being stalked once they identify a pattern of suspicious incidents occurring, such as frequent phone calls and text messages, notes left on their car, unwanted gifts left at their home, or an awareness that they are being followed.
Penalties under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW)
Under Section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, any person who stalks or intimidates another with the intention of causing fear of physical or mental harm knowing the conduct is likely to cause fear will be punished for up to 5 years’ imprisonment and/or 50 penalty units (an amount of money used as a basis to calculate the monetary penalties).
Harassment Laws NSW: Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)
Section 60E of the Crimes Act 1900 also covers matters related to harassment. It provides that it is an offence to “assault, stalk, harass or intimidate any school student or member of staff of a school, while the student or member of staff is attending a school.”
Under this Section, you may be charged with the offence of “assaults at schools” where it is alleged that you assaulted, stalked, harassed or intimidated a staff member or student while they were attending a school, but no actual bodily harm was caused. The maximum penalty in these situations is five years’ imprisonment.
If it is alleged that you assaulted, stalked, harassed or intimidated a staff member or student while they were attending a school and actual bodily harm was caused, the maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment.
It is worth noting that there are also Commonwealth laws to protect victims of harassment. They include the following:
Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act
The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act contains the law on sexual harassment. Sexual harassment occurs when a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or unwelcome request for sexual favours, or engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed.
To determine whether a person’s actions or conduct constitutes sexual harassment a range of factors can be taken into account, including, but not limited to:
- Sex and age of the person harassed,
- The harassed person’s gender identity,
- The harassed person’s marital or relationship status,
- The harassed person’s race or religious beliefs,
- Any disability the harassed person has, and
- The relationship between the harassed person and the person harassing them.
A person who sexually harasses is primarily responsible for the sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act.
Family Law Act 1975
Harassment Laws NSW: Remedies
If someone is intimidating or harassing you, or causing you to fear for your safety or the safety of your family or your property, you can file for apprehended violence orders. Under this Act, there are two types of apprehended violence orders (AVO):
- apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO), and
- apprehended personal violence order (APVO).
An APVO is the order suitable where no domestic relationship exists, such as protection against neighbours or a co-worker; an ADVO applies where a domestic relationship exists between the parties, such as protection against a spouse, ex-partner, or parent.
To apply for an AVO, you can contact the police or go to the Local Court for help with making your own application (Part 10, Divisions 2 & 3).
An interim (temporary) order can be obtained and takes effect when the defendant is served with a copy of the order; it remains in force until the matter is heard by the court. If no violence is involved, the court at any time can refer the parties to mediation.
At court, if the application is successful, courts will make a final order. This final order will have effect for the period of time specified in the order or, if not specified, it can last for 12 months or up to two years depending on the magistrate.
The magistrate takes into consideration the circumstances of the matter and requests made by the applicant. Before the period of the AVO ends, should circumstances change, either party may apply to have the order varied or revoked.
The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
An AVO can contain various conditions that suit your individual circumstances to ensure your safety and protection (Part 8). For instance, it can prohibit the defendant from contacting you or coming to your home. It can also protect other people such as family members. Parties can add family members to the order for their protection.
If you have an AVO against you, it is not a criminal record in itself. However, breaching the AVO will lead to a criminal record. If a person breaches an AVO, authorities can arrest them and charge a fine of up to $5500. Moreover, if the incident involves violence, they can be imprisoned for up to two years.
Engaging the services of a counsel is highly advisable if you are facing harassment. JB Solicitors has a leading team of experienced lawyers that can help with your situation. We can offer you legal representation and legal advice on harassment laws NSW. We can also inform you of your rights on harassment laws NSW.
Do you have any more queries on harassment laws in NSW? Contact us today.