Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Catherine Foster acted for the Defendant in this action in which a female Muslim PHD student made allegations of racist harassment and bullying against her female academic supervisor, also a Muslim. Both women were based at the department of Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Durham and the Claimant alleged psychiatric injury as a result of sustained harassment and bullying over a period of 2 ½ years or so.

His Honour Judge Walton undertook a comprehensive review of the law under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 with reference to recent authorities and concluded that the following criteria must be established for a claim to succeed under the 1997 Act: (1) there must be conduct which occurs on at least two occasions, (2) which is targeted at the claimant, (3) which is calculated in an objective sense to cause alarm or distress, and (4) which is objectively judged to be oppressive and unacceptable; (5) what is oppressive and unacceptable may depend on the social or working context in which the conduct occurs; and (6) a line is to be drawn between conduct which is unattractive and unreasonable, and conduct which has been described in various ways: 'torment' of the victim, 'of an order which would sustain criminal liability'.

The Judge found on the facts of this case that the Claimant had not succeeded in establishing a breach of duty.

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