Q153: My neighbour is harassing me, what can I do?

The word harassment is deliberately not defined in the legislation so can cover a wide range of activities (see Related Information). The behaviour must cause alarm, distress or torment. The incidents must be related and must not be two isolated incidents. The further apart the incidents are, the less likely there is to be an offence of harassment. However, all the circumstances of the incident will be taken into account when determining if an offence has been committed.

The law takes into account the "reasonable person" test. Basically this means that if it was felt that a person of reasonable firmness (i.e. the average person on the street) would not be alarmed or distressed by the behaviour, an offence is not committed. The offender must also be aware that the course of conduct they are pursuing would cause the victim to be alarmed or distressed.

If you don't want to involve the police, you could see a solicitor who may begin civil proceedings; if your claim succeeds you may be awarded damages and/or an interdict.

Example:

A lives at number 2 and B lives at number 4, there is a dispute over a fence. A keeps going round to B's house to complain about this every night for a fortnight. B is fed up and is beginning to feel distressed about A's constant visits. A is aware that his behaviour will cause distress to B as he is hoping to wear him down into removing the fence.

The above is for harassment without fear of violence. Harassment with fear of violence is a person whose cause of conduct causes another to fear on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him/her and who knows that his/her behaviour will cause fear of violence on each of the occasions is guilty of an offence.

The incidents must be related (i.e. a course of conduct) and must not be two isolated incidents. The further apart the incidents are, the less likely there is to be an offence of harassment.

The law takes into account the "reasonable person" test. Basically this means that if it was felt that a person of reasonable firmness (i.e. the average person on the street) would not fear violence, the offence is not committed.

Example:

A and B are neighbours and A is upset over a fence. A goes round to B's house every night for a week threatening violence to B and damage to the fence if B does not take the fence down. B fears violence, as A is very aggressive in manner. A is aware that his behaviour is aggressive and is hoping to intimidate B into taking the fence down.

If you feel that you are being harassed and you want to involve the police then you should contact Police Scotland by dialling 101 who will take details. If there are any threats of violence towards you, you should inform the police who will treat the matter as a higher priority.

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