Watch out before you harass people online

The new Protection from Harassment Act makes it easy to stop online harassment, and take action against the harassers

April 29, 2013
Troll connoisseur harassment internet

The Protection from Harassment Act (Act 17 of 2011) came into operation on 27 April 2013, aimed at stopping “the pain and suffering of being harassed”.

The Protection of Harassment Act, which was adopted by Parliament towards the end of 2011, provides for an inexpensive civil remedy to protect a person from behaviour which may not constitute a crime but which may impact negatively on various rights of an individual.

The Act aims to address harassment by means of a court order, in terms of which the harasser is prohibited from continuing with the act of harassment.

Any person who contravenes such an order is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.

In terms of the Act, the court may order –

  • Electronic communication service providers to provide the court with the name and address of a person who harasses another person in cyber space; and
  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate instances of harassment in order to ascertain the name and address of harasser whose particulars are not known by the complainant.

The SAPS may in certain circumstances also investigate a complaint of harassment made directly to the SAPS to ascertain the identity and address of the harasser.

If a person is being harassed, he or she may apply for a protection order against such conduct at a magistrate’s court.

The procedure for applying for a protection order is straight forward and inexpensive. Legal representation is not required.

When a court grants a protection order, a warrant of arrest will automatically be issued for the harasser.

The execution thereof will be suspended, pending any non-compliance with a condition of the protection order.

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