Q497: My friend/ex partner/ex employee is sending me threatening/nuisance e-mails/texts/phone calls. What can I do?

If you receive two or more nuisance e-mails/texts that are non violent in nature, this could amount to an offence of harassment (defined below). The word "harassment" does not have a legal definition, but the words alarm, distress or torment, are the best words used to describe it.

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, the 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.


A and B were partners, A finishes the relationship but B is not happy. B sends 30 e-mails/texts over the course of a week begging A to reconsider. A is distressed by this course of action. Note however, if A was not distressed and ignored the e-mails/texts, then no offence of harassment would have occurred.

If you believe you have suffered this type of harassment, there are two possible ways of dealing with it. You can contact the police who will pursue the matter or alternatively, you can pursue it yourself thorough the civil courts.

If you feel that you have suffered from harassment and would like police involvement, please contact Police Scotland by dialling 101.

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