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Cases the Protection from Harassment Court can hear

The Protection from Harassment Court (PHC) can hear the types of cases specified in the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

Note
PHC applications can be made against both individuals or entities (which include companies, limited liability partnerships and unincorporated associations).

Intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress

These include any of the following acts done with the intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress to another person:

Example:

  • X and Y are co‑workers. At the workplace, X loudly and graphically describes a desire for a sexual relationship with Y to other co‑workers in an insulting manner. X does so knowing that Y can hear this and intends to cause Y distress. X is guilty of an offence.

Refer to Section 3 of the POHA for more information.

Causing harassment, alarm or distress

For any of the following acts, they are punishable if they are heard, seen or otherwise perceived by any person who is likely to feel harassed, alarmed or distressed (even if there was no intent to cause harm):

  • Using any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
  • Making any threatening, abusive or insulting communication.

Examples:

  • X and Y are classmates. X gathers with other classmates outside Y’s family home, where Y lives with Y’s parents, and shouts threats at Y. Y is not at home. Y’s mother hears X’s threats and is distressed because she fears for Y’s safety. X is guilty of an offence.
  • X enters a bus station and takes out a sword. Several persons who are present are alarmed by X’s behaviour. X is guilty of an offence even though X’s actions were not directed at anyone.

Refer to Section 4 of the POHA for more information.

These include any of the following acts done with the intent to cause a victim to believe that unlawful violence will be used against them or any other person, or provoke the victim to use unlawful violence:

  • Using any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.
  • Making any threatening, abusive or insulting communication.

It is also an offence to publish any information that may be used to identify the victim or any related person with any of the following intent:

  • To cause the victim to believe that unlawful violence will be used against them or any other person.
  • To facilitate the use of unlawful violence against the victim or any other person.

Note: This is different from an act causing harassment, alarm or distress as it requires a threat of physical violence.

Examples:

  • X and Y are classmates. X posts threatening and abusive remarks about Y on a publicly-accessible website. X writes a subsequent post on the same website containing Y’s identity information and stating "Everyone, let's beat Y up!". X has committed an offence with the second post.
  • On a social media platform to which Y does not have access to, X writes a post containing threats of violence against Y and calls others to hunt Y down. B posts Y’s home address in reply to X’s post. B is guilty of an offence.

Refer to Section 5 of the POHA for more information.

Unlawful stalking needs to satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • It involves an act or omission associated with stalking.
  • It causes harassment, alarm or distress to the victim.
  • The offender intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the victim, or should reasonably know that the act is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the victim.

Examples:

(In the following examples, the term "someone" may refer to the victim or any related person.)

  • Following someone.
  • Entering or loitering in areas near someone’s home or business.
  • Giving or leaving someone gifts despite being asked to stop doing so.
  • Keeping someone under surveillance.
  • Repeated circulation of revealing photographs of someone to other people.

Refer to Section 7 of the POHA for more information.

These include any indecent, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, words or communication towards a public servant or public service worker who is executing their duties.

It is also an offence to publish any information that may be used to identify the public servant or public service worker in any of the following cases:

  • With the intent to prevent or deter them from discharging their duty.
  • In consequence of anything that they did or tried to do in the lawful discharge of their duty.

Example:

  • X is unhappy that a public servant, Y, refused to waive a late payment charge. X writes several posts on an open social media platform with abusive comments about Y in relation to the incident. Subsequently, X posts Y’s name, home address and photograph on the same platform in order to cause Y distress. Y is distressed by the subsequent post. X is guilty of an offence.

Refer to Section 6 of the POHA for more details.

A false statement of fact needs to satisfy both of these conditions:

  • It is a statement which a reasonable person seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving it would consider to be a representation of fact.
  • It is false or misleading, whether in whole or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.

A victim of a false statement of fact may be entitled to a remedy under the POHA if the case meets the relevant criteria in Part 3, Division 2 of the POHA. The criteria depends on the type of order the victim seeks to obtain.

For example, the court must be satisfied with all the following conditions for a general correction order to be made:

  • The relevant statement is a false statement of fact.
  • The publication of the relevant statement has caused (or is likely to cause) serious harm to the reputation of the victim.
  • It is just and equitable in the circumstances to make the general correction order.

Examples:

  • X publishes a false statement that Y, a lawyer, had misappropriated client moneys. As a result, Y’s clients terminate their contracts for Y’s services. Y has suffered serious harm to Y’s reputation.
  • X makes a false statement that Y, a married female, had committed adultery with multiple men. The statement is widely published on social media. Y has suffered serious harm to Y’s reputation.

Refer to Part 3, Division 2 of the POHA for more information on the criteria for other types of orders relating to false statements.

Take a pre-filing assessment

Before you file, take an online pre-filing assessment on the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS) to consider if you have a claim and whether it is suitable for the simplified proceedings in the PHC.

Note: This assessment is not conclusive and is not intended to be legal advice. You may seek legal advice if you are unsure about your case.

You may also refer to the differences between the simplified and standard proceedings.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

Find out more

Resources

Related questions

Some examples of such information include the individual's:
  • Name.
  • Residential address or email address.
  • Telephone number.
  • Date of birth.
  • Identity card number or passport number.
  • Photograph.
  • Employment details.
  • Signature (whether handwritten or electronic).

Refer to Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act for more information.

A related person means a person about whose safety or well‑being the claimant or applicant would reasonably be expected to be seriously concerned.
2021/07/23

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