If someone is harassing you, you may be able to apply to the sheriff court for a non-harassment order to stop them. This page explains how.
What is a non-harassment order?
Non-harassment orders can be granted by the sheriff court to prevent someone from carrying out a specified action or actions. If they do, they will be committing a criminal offence.
What kind of behaviour can a non-harassment order prevent?
A non-harassment order can protect you from any behaviour that is deliberately carried out to cause you alarm or distress. This may be behaviour which is not in itself unlawful or abusive, but which is making you feel upset or afraid. For example, you may be able to take out a non-harassment order to prevent your partner from phoning or texting you repeatedly, or to stop a neighbour shouting abuse at you.
The behaviour you want to prevent must have taken place at least twice before you can raise an action for harassment.
Who can I take out a non-harassment order against?
You can apply for a non-harassment order against anyone who is harassing you, including your husband, wife, civil partner or partner, other family members or from previous partners, neighbours or strangers.
However, you must know the identity of the person who's harassing you. For example, you can't take out a non-harassment order against someone who is making anonymous abusive phone calls.
How do I get a non-harassment order?
In order to apply for a non-harassment order, you'll need to get help from a solicitor. They will be able to advise you on your options and can raise the action in court for you. If you are on benefits or a low income, you may be able to get legal aid to help pay the costs.
The procurator fiscal can also apply to the court for a non-harassment order during criminal proceedings that involve harassment in any way.
Should I apply for an interdict instead?
An interdict a civil court order that tells a person not to do something or to stay away from you, your children or a specific place, such as your house. If a person doesn't stick to an interdict, the police might be able to arrest them if the interdict gives them the power to do so. You may find it easier to get an interdict rather than a non-harassment order, because the penalties for breaking an interdict are not as severe. You can find out more about interdicts in the section on antisocial behaviour.
Will I have to go to court?
In most cases, you won't need to appear in court to get a non-harassment order granted. If you do need to go to court to give evidence, your solicitor will explain to you how court procedure works and what you'll need to do and say.
What happens at court?
When your solicitor raises an action of harassment in court, the sheriff has to decide whether it is reasonable to grant the order. Because this is a civil action, you don't need to prove 'beyond all reasonable doubt' that the person is harassing you. The sheriff has to decide whether it is more likely than not that they are harassing you.
The sheriff can then decide:
to grant a non-harassment order to prevent the person harassing you further, or
that it is not reasonable to grant a non-harassment order, or
to grant an interdict or interim interdict instead, or
to award damages to compensate for any anxiety you've suffered as a result of the harassment, or for any financial loss caused by the harassment.
What happens if the order is broken?
Breach of a non-harassment order is a criminal offence. If the person breaks the order, they can face up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. If the order is broken, contact the police immediately. It's up to the police and the procurator fiscal to enforce the order by taking the person to court, which means that you won't have to raise (and pay for) any court actions yourself. However, you may have to go to court to give evidence against the person. Your solicitor can help you prepare for this.
Last updated: 29 December 2014