Workplace Sexual Harassment
Visit our new website on

Sexual Harassment

Legal Rights & Obligations

gavelA law called the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (POHA) provides help in cases of stalking and harassment.

POHA only applies to actions carried out on or after 15 November 2014.

This page provides information to help you decide:

  • Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?
  • What help can you get and how?

This page provides general information. If you need assistance with your case, please contact the Sexual Assault Care Centre.

Contents

  1. Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?
  2. What help can you get and how?
  3. Types of POHA court orders
  4. How to apply for court orders


Do you face harassment and/or stalking covered by POHA?

Harassment:

This involves threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviours or communications.

Such behaviours may be actionable if a) it is meant to cause you harassment, alarm or distress or b) is likely to cause you these feelings and you heard or saw the offending behaviours or words.

The other party may defend themselves by showing that the conduct was reasonable.

POHA also prohibits this behaviour if it is meant to (and is likely to) provoke violence against you or someone else, or make you believe that such violence will be used.

Some examples of harassment are:

  • Your co-worker makes graphic and insulting sexual comments to you or others, intending that you will overhear and be distressed.
  • Your classmate makes a threatening Facebook post about you, which you and all fellow classmates can see. Someone shows it to you and you are alarmed.

Contact SACC to find out more.

 

Unlawful stalking

You could be facing unlawful stalking if someone does one or more of the following:

  • Following you
  • Sending communications to or about you, or pretending to be from you
  • Entering or loitering your home, workplace or anywhere else you frequent
  • Interfering with your property
  • Giving or sending material (e.g. gifts) to you, leaving it where you might find it, or bringing it to your attention
  • Keeping you under watch

You could also be the target of stalking if these acts are done to someone you are likely to care about (e.g. a family member).

This conduct can be unlawful stalking if it’s done more than once. It can count even if it’s only once, if it’s for a long time (e.g. video recording you over several days), or the person has been convicted of stalking you before.

POHA protects you against this conduct if it causes you harassment, alarm or distress and the stalker intend or knows (or should know) this.

The stalker may have some defences – e.g. their conduct is intended to prevent crime.


What help can you get and how?

You can choose one or more of the following options:

  • Make a police report. Find out more about making police reports here. POHA offences are “non-seizable”, meaning that the police would ask you to make a Magistrate’s complaint.
  • File a criminal complaint in the State Courts (Magistrate’s Court) to summon the harasser to attend court. If no settlement is reached with the harasser and you wish to charge the harasser in court, you will need a lawyer for this. SACC can provide preliminary legal counselling. If found guilty, the harasser will face punishment (jail, fine).
  • You can sue a harasser or stalker in court for compensation. You will need a lawyer for this. SACC can provide preliminary legal counselling.
  • You can apply for POHA court orders that require the harasser or stalker to stop their behaviour (e.g. stop contacting you, take down online postings).

A SACC befriender can go with you to the police station or to the court, to provide emotional and technical support throughout the process. Please contact us to ask for a befriender.

 

Types of POHA court orders

When you apply for an order, you are the Applicant. The other party is the Respondent.

There are three kinds of orders you can get:

  • Protection Orders (POs): The Respondent must stop harassing/stalking you and/or remove any harassing publication (e.g. delete an online posting).
  • Expedited Protection Orders (EPOs): This is a temporary PO, granted more quickly in urgent cases. It lasts up to 28 days or (if sooner) until you have a PO hearing.
  • Non-Publication Orders (NPOs): Respondent must not publish (or stop publishing) a false statement about you; or they publish a notification that the statement is false.

 

How to apply for court orders

This description is based on the Protection Order. For Expedited and Non-Publication Orders, there are further special considerations (see below).

There are three stages: 1) Application and Service; 2) Pre-trial conference; 3) Hearing

 

Stage 1: Application and Service

You need to bring the following documents to the Crime Registry, Harassment Counter (Level 1, State Courts Building, 1 Havelock Square S059724).

  • Originating Summons (OS): Download here.
    • Describes what behaviour you want the Respondent to stop and/or what statement you want them not to publish.
    • This must be typewritten. You can type it before going to the Registry or use the self-help kiosk located there.
  • Supporting Affidavit (SA): Download here.
    • Includes your personal details, the Respondent’s details, description of evidence of the harassment/stalking and some technical declarations required by the law. You can contact us for help with filling this in.
    • This must be typewritten. You can type it before going to the Registry or use the self-help kiosk located there.
  • NRIC or other personal identification
  • Evidence of the harassment/stalking, e.g. print-outs of emails, blogs, websites, screenshots, photographs.
  • Police report or medical report (if any)

Try to arrive before 4.30pm on Mondays-Thursdays or before 4pm on Fridays.

Minors: If you are below 21, a parent or legal guardian has to make the application. They are required to use a lawyer.

Costs: An application costs at least $125 and possibly more depending on the number of affidavits involved.

Judge: After filing the documents, you will see a Judge, who may ask you for more information or documents. The Judge will tell you how to inform the Respondent of the application (this is called “Service”), and set a date for the Pre-Trial Conference.

Service: You need to follow the Judge’s instructions for informing the Respondent of your application. Then you must file another “Affidavit of Service” to prove that you have done this.

The Respondent is supposed to respond with their own affidavit within 14 days.

 

Stage 2: Pre-Trial Conference

This happens on a day set by the Judge. Both you and the Respondent must be there.

The Judge may refer you to mediation or counselling. If mediation cannot resolve the matter, there will be a hearing (possibly after another Pre-Trial Conference).

 

Stage 3: Hearing

Bring all your evidence to the hearing. This may include, for example:

  • Witnesses (e.g. someone who saw the harassment)
  • Photographs and screenshots
  • Computer print-outs of harassment
  • Medical and police reports

If the Judge grants an Order, it has effect only after you “serve” it on the Respondent (i.e. formally inform them – the Judge will tell you how). After that, you need to file another “Affidavit of Service” (proving you “served” the Order) at the Crime Registry.

 

Special considerations

Urgent cases: If your case is urgent you can apply for an Expedited Protection Order (EPO), which will last for 28 days or till your hearing. You may be able to have an EPO hearing on the same day as you file your documents.

Non-Publication Orders (NPOs): NPOs use different forms from Protection Orders.

A SACC befriender can accompany you to the court to provide emotional and technical support. Please contact us to ask for a befriender, or if you have any questions about POHA or the court order process.