Being persistently harassed by someone can be psychologically damaging. The effects of harassment on a victim can range from simple irritation to persistent anxiety and it can even lead to extreme depression. So what can a person do if he/she is being harassed by someone?
First...What is harassment?
In Trinidad and Tobago, harassment is defined in the Offences Against the Person Act in Section 30A(1). It states:
“Harassment” of a person includes alarming the person or causing the person distress by engaging in a course of conduct such as--
What happens when someone is guilty of the offence of harassment?
Section 30A(2) of the Offences Against the Person Act states that anyone who engages in such conduct amounting to harassment of another and he knows or ought to know it amounts to harassment, he is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $2000TT and to imprisonment for six months.
According to section 30A(3) of the Offences Against the Person Act, it does not matter if the offender does not believe his actions amount to harassment as long as a reasonable person would believe it did. In other words, if any reasonable person who has knowledge of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment, then the offender is deemed to know his conduct amounted to harassment.
Additionally, according to section 30B(1), if the offender's conduct causes the victim to fear that violence will be used against him, and the offender knows or ought to know that his conduct will cause the other person to be fearful, he also commits the offence of putting a person in fear of violence and will be liable on indictment to a fine of $10,000TT and to imprisonment for 5 years, or on summary conviction to a fine of $5000TT and to imprisonment for 6 months.
According to section 30B(2) of the Act, it does not matter if the offender does not believe his actions will cause another person to fear that violence will be used against him as long as a reasonable person would believe it would. In other words, if any reasonable person who has knowledge of the same information would think the course of conduct will cause the other person to be fearful of violence, then the offender is deemed to know his conduct would cause the other person to feel this way.
If a person charged with the offence of putting a person in fear of violence ends up being found not guilty on trial on indictment, the Court can still find him guilty for the offence of harassment (according to Section 30B(3) of the Act).
Are there defences for a person charged with the offence of harassment?
Yes, there are defences to the offence of harassment as well as defences to the offence of putting a person in fear of violence. If a person charged can show that:
What can I do if I am being harassed?
Persons sometimes express that the above remedies to harassment are not sufficient. Presently, in Trinidad and Tobago, the law does not appear to extend much further than this but it does not mean it cannot in the future. In Jamaica for example, Justice Sykes of the Supreme Court found that the tort of harassment is now explicitly recognized at common law in that country (in the case of Needham and Clarke v Senior Claim No HCV 0852/2006 decided on 24th of March 2006). It means that in Jamaica, it is possible for the victim of harassment to bring a civil case against the perpetrator for compensation. A civil case is a lawsuit that is brought to enforce, redress or protect a private right. In a civil case the action is brought by the victim (a private citizen) against the perpetrator. This is unlike criminal proceedings where the action is brought by the state (i.e. the country) against the perpetrator. Whether the tort of harassment would be recognised as a cause of action in Trinidad and Tobago and what remedies would be available if such a tort is proved, remains to be seen.
If you or anyone you know has been the victim of harassment, these local resources may be able to offer help:
Trinidad and Tobago Police Service
Emergency Contact Numbers
Important Notice: This post does not constitute or provide legal advice. Always consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any legal problem or issue.